ATLANTA — Jim Boeheim sat in the folding chair in the back corner of the visitor’s locker room, his right leg folded over his left and blankly examined the stat sheet in front of him.Everything had gone so wrong. On a night when his team had needed to be at its best, the Orange seemed further than it had all season from generating any half-court offense. Syracuse (15-7, 4-5 Atlantic Coast) lost, 55-51, to Georgia Tech (11-11, 4-5) on Wednesday night in a crushing blow to its postseason chances.Syracuse’s season is in critical condition.The way the Orange played in its GT loss combined with a lack of signature wins, a lack of road wins and an increasing lack of chances to earn either puts this team on the brink of missing the NCAA Tournament. Boeheim refuses to prognosticate on any season, which is fair enough, but his team now finds itself in a deep, deep hole without any margin for error.“Man, we’re not looking at it like that,” point guard Frank Howard said. “We’re competitors. This is what we come here for, for challenges like this. We want to prove ourselves.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“This is the ultimate test for us. We’ll be ready.”Consider the schedule.Syracuse probably needs to win four or five of its remaining nine games to make the NCAA Tournament. Kenpom.com gives the Orange a 50-50 shot or better in three of them, at home against Wake Forest and North Carolina State and on the road at Boston College.SU also needs to beat at least one of the six teams left on its schedule currently projected as “in” by Bracketville, the most accurate projection site in the past five years, because Syracuse has yet to beat a team in conference play that looks to be solidly in the NCAA Tournament. Bracketville has Syracuse listed in the “Next four out” category.Last year, the NCAA Tournament committee left out an 18-14 Syracuse team that upset three Top 10 teams down the stretch because it only mustered two road wins. This season, SU has two, but neither will impress the selection committee. Its only conference road victory came against Pittsburgh, the ACC’s worst team by far. Even that was a struggle; Syracuse didn’t pull away until late in the second half. This means the Orange needs to win at least one, though likely two, of its final four road games — Louisville, Miami, No. 4 Duke and Boston College — and the easiest target, BC, toppled then-No. 1 Duke on its home floor earlier this season.Yet no one in the locker room seems nervous. Especially not Tyus Battle.“We’ve got a tough Virginia team next, then we go to Louisville,” he said. “We’re going to get two really good wins.”Consider the offense.It encompasses three players who play almost every minute of every game. It relies on one-on-one dribble penetration. It operates without set plays — Boeheim said they wouldn’t make the shots off them if they got the looks anyway — and therefore it deploys a lot of high pick-and-rolls, which rarely results in a pass to the rolling big anyway.Syracuse, in conference play, has allowed totals of 51 and 55 and lost because offensive impotence overwhelmed elite defense. Boeheim called the GT loss a “classic example of that.” The reductive offense makes Syracuse predictable and allows opponents like Georgia Tech to shut off one aspect of the game and worry about little else.Yellow Jackets head coach Josh Pastner told his players Syracuse’s three scorers — Oshae Brissett, Howard and Battle — loved isolation plays and driving one-on-one. So, GT enacted a simple plan.“Every time (one of their players) drove, he’s seeing bodies,” GT wing Josh Okogie said. “We did a good job kind of stopping the drives. That’s half the battle.”Consider the roster.Syracuse needs a herculean effort and it has two guards. This team had a third until a practice injury sustained Monday sidelined freshman point guard Howard Washington for the year.The other players outside the three scorers have proven unable to carry the offensive load when their teammates are stifled. Geno Thorpe, the grad-transfer scoring guard Syracuse brought in at the beginning of the season who then quit, is currently tied for the Orange’s fourth-highest points per game (6.0) numbers this season.Now, Syracuse waits on forward Matt Moyer to return to his regular minutes after an ankle injury has limited him in the last week. It waits for forward Marek Dolezaj to find a balance between passing and scoring from the high post. It waits to see what it can expect from center Bourama Sidibe on a nightly basis to ease the load from starting big man Paschal Chukwu. It is a team waiting on a lot of things that cannot afford to wait on anything.“They played only about six guys,” Okogie said after the GT game. “It’s hard to win with just six guys, no matter who they are.”In the locker room after Wednesday’s loss, Battle sat in the chair in front of his locker with ice bags taped to both knees. When asked about the situation Syracuse finds itself in, Battle looked up and said, without hesitation, “I love it. It’s going to be tough, but you live for challenges like this, especially when you’re a competitor. I’m going to be ready for it.”Really, you love it?“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah. I really do.”Battle might not love how the season ends if Syracuse loses even one more game it shouldn’t. The Orange is not quite finished, not yet, but they’re way down in the hole.A comeback is possible, because it always is, but climbing out of this seems, at the very least, improbable.Sam Fortier is a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Sam4TR. Comments Published on February 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm Facebook Twitter Google+
Radja Nainggolan: Roma midfielder to add aggression in the middle? Click the arrow above, right, to see the players on Chelsea’s transfer shortlist – Now Antonio Conte has officially been unveiled as the new Chelsea manager, a number of footballs best players have been linked with summer moves. Nainggolan is one of those consistently linked, but the 27-year-old midfielder has gone out of his way to deny he has spoken to Chelsea, using Twitter at the end of March to do so. Nainggolan is just one of many players on the transfer shortlist as Chelsea look to build a quality side under Conte, so have a look at the others by clicking the arrow above, right. 12 Antonio Rudiger: Chelsea looking at new defenders starting with Stuttgart man – Rudiger joined Roma for a season-long loan from Stuttgart in August and the Serie A side reportedly have a 13m option to sign him permanently having already paid 4m to secure his services on a temporary basis. In addition, his Roma team-mate Kostas Manolas has also been linked. The pair have built a good relationship at the back during the Germans loan spell in Italy and after beating Lazio 4-1 recently, Rudiger said the understanding is better than before. 12 Alessio Romagnoli: Top rated Milan defender on the radar – The Milan stopper turned 21 in January and has many clubs around Europe keeping an eye on him. Chelsea are among them even though he only joined Milan from Roma in a 25m transfer last summer. Gonzalo Higuain: Striker to continue goal scoring at Chelsea? – A striker is likely to be a priority for Conte as there are still rumours circulating about Diego Costa going to either Atletico Madrid or PSG, while Radamel Falcao will not have his loan extended. Higuain is one goal getter linked having scored 30 Serie A goals in 31 games this season. However, the 28-year-old is in the middle of a title fight with Juve and Napoli will likely be playing Champions League football next season, so will Chelsea be able to persuade him even with all that cash? Miralem Pjanic: Jewel in Roma’s crown already been spoken to? – Even before the Conte announcement, there were reports the club had already been handed a list of targets by the Italian and in March it was reported the club had held talks with Pjanics representatives. A 40m fee has been mentioned, but the midfielder is held in high regard in Rome. 12 12 12 Romelu Lukaku: Everton striker identified to sort goal problem up top – Evertons 22-year-old Belgian striker has been linked with a return to Chelsea, the club he left in 2014. However, this could be tricky considering Lukaku said the next step for him is Champions League football. I am 23 this summer. I have been playing since I was 16 and never had a taste of the Champions League, he explained in an interview last month, adding that playing every three days is something he enjoys. But what if Chelsea offer a fat contract? Now it has been confirmed Antonio Conte will take over as Chelsea manager in the summer, the excitement over transfers can begin.The Italy boss will start his new job after Euro 2016 and a host of top names have since been linked.‘CONTE HAS EVERYTHING TO BE GREAT SUCCESS AT CHELSEA’Gazzetta dello Sport on how a team could look in Conte’s 3-4-3 formation… 12 12 12 Juan Cuadrado: Winger to give life at Chelsea another go? – Cuadrado is currently on loan at Juve from Chelsea, but there are reports he could be recalled by Conte when he starts his job after Euro 2016. The player says he is at ease now he is back in Italy, having left Fiorentina for the Blues in January 2015, adding he feels he is getting better, but admitted his future is not up to him. We will see in the summer. 12 12 Paul Pogba: ‘One of the best midfielders’ to join Conte at Chelsea? – Dont be surprised if Chelsea sign Pogba, former Juve sporting director Alessio Secco said. Due to the players incredible value, not many clubs can afford him, so he can see the Blues actually making a move now Conte is there. We are talking about one of the best midfielders [in the world] so I wouldnt be surprised if [Conte] went for him. Leonardo Bonucci: Juventus defender to continue relationship with Conte? – Conte has worked with the defender at both club and international level and apparently Bonucci is his top target as he looks to strengthen defence considering John Terry is on the way out. Conte will have been fearful recently when Bonucci was stretchered off against Germany, but it appears he will miss just one game. However, there is no guarantee the player, who will be 29 in May, will want to leave a club in the Champions League for a team unlikely to play any European football in the summer, or that Juve will even sell. So other defenders are also being looked at 12 12 Edinson Cavani: PSG striker another option up front – Cavani would not cost as much as Higuain as the player is likely to leave PSG in the summer after an unhappy season where his dad has even suggested he should leave the club. The 29-year-old has scored 14 Ligue 1 goals so far this season, but maybe Cavani will instead fancy following Ezequiel Lavezzi to China for the football on offer there Antonio Candreva: No Cuadrado, no problem with Lazio ace also in the frame – An alternative to Cuadrado could be Candreva even though the 29-year-old has had better seasons in his career. Conte reportedly tried to sign the midfielder when he was in charge of Juventus and with rumours about the player wanting out of Lazio refusing to go away, he has been linked to Chelsea. Click the arrow above, right, to see the rumoured shortlilst, which is long, but the ambition will certainly please Chelsea fans.Keep up to date with all transfer rumours on talksport.com by checking in here.