MBB : LoGiurato: NIT? Not quite, but shocking fall is cause for concern

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Back up a second, Rick Jackson.What was that?It’s been three years since this acronym has been used in association with Syracuse men’s basketball. Three years since the acronym has given Syracuse fans knots in their stomachs while hoping their favorite team’s bubble — another term that hasn’t been used around here in three years — hasn’t burst.That’s right. Rick Jackson said N-I-T.Because somewhere along the line in Syracuse’s 73-69 loss to Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, Jackson and the rest of his Syracuse teammates felt a sense of urgency they never could have dreamed of a month ago.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘Maybe pride started kicking in,’ Jackson said of the Orange’s near comeback Saturday from what once was a 20-point deficit.‘We don’t want to not be in the (NCAA) Tournament and be in the NIT right now.’And there’s the bombshell. Be in the NIT right now. Jackson was the only member of the team who used the letters ‘NIT’ when describing the state of this Syracuse team.But when you talk to almost any member of the team, that feeling — that sense of urgency — is there.Let’s get this out of the way so there’s no confusion: Syracuse is not going to the NIT. No logical path leads the Orange there. At 7-6 in the Big East and with 20 wins overall, SU already has a strong resume.With home games left against Rutgers and DePaul, the Orange will, at worst, be .500 in the conference with 22 wins and wins over Michigan State, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, at St. John’s and at Connecticut.So don’t worry. No chance of an epic collapse in that sense.The message here is this: This once-proud Syracuse team has gone backward in just four weeks. On top of the college basketball world one week at No. 3 in the nation. Still undefeated and preparing for perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the season to that point with No. 5 Pittsburgh.Two weeks later, the team found itself 14 spots further down in the national rankings.And now, this is where it stands. From special to very ordinary. From comfortable to fighting.‘Our season,’ SU point guard Scoop Jardine said. ‘That’s our season Monday. If guys don’t get up for this game, then they don’t need to be playing Syracuse basketball.’The definition of Syracuse basketball has changed rapidly this season. From a team brimming with confidence after the second-best start in program history under head coach Jim Boeheim to a team tucking its self-confidence between its legs while questioning where it stands on the NCAA Tournament bubble.That was displayed Saturday. The Orange started out on that road by building a comfortable lead and gaining confidence. Suddenly, it all slipped away. Finally, the valiant effort fell short as SU realized it can’t expect to come back from a 13-point deficit with eight minutes to play.That was the team’s performance as a whole. Individually, Syracuse is even more wildly inconsistent. Like Jardine, who goes through a 16-for-55 stretch from the field in six games only to score 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting Saturday.But then, in the same game, makes a crucial turnover on a busted alley-oop attempt with SU down three and trying to make a comeback. Something that could only make Boeheim stare at Jardine for Louisville’s entire next possession as Jardine gave the sheepish ‘I know’ look.‘We made a great effort and got our offense going and did some good things on the defensive end,’ Boeheim said. ‘But you can’t get that far behind.’Syracuse can’t afford to get much further behind in the grand scheme of things this season, either. So here is the crossroads for this version of Syracuse basketball.Is this the team — finally coming to fruition — that Boeheim called ‘overrated’ two games into the season? The team that went on to win 18 games in a row to start the season? Or the team that stands psychologically shaken now?We’ll find out soon enough.‘We have to be tough, and we have to finish out this season strong,’ Jackson said. ‘We’ve come a long way. At the end, we can’t just give it up on these couple games.’Brett LoGiurato is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] Published on February 13, 2011 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Commentslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *