Fortier: Syracuse’s season is in critical condition

first_imgATLANTA — 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 sjfortie@syr.edu or @Sam4TR.  Comments Published on February 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Scott Boras had lunch with Arte Moreno, sparking speculation about Angels’ pursuit of Gerrit Cole

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Boras is the agent for Gerrit Cole, the top pitcher on this winter’s free-agent market. Cole is an Orange County native who most in the industry believe prefers to play on the West Coast. The Angels have made no secret of the fact that they need pitching, and are prepared to shop at the highest levels.Boras wouldn’t indulge further questions about the nature of his lunch with Moreno, or who else might have been there.“I don’t want to give you the lunch roster,” he said.Boras then added, unsolicited, that “Andrew Friedman was not at that lunch, by the way.” Friedman is the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.Cole, who starred at Orange Lutheran High and UCLA, certainly could help the Dodgers, as well as the Angels. Boras, in typical fashion, suggested that every team ought to be after his client. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In the middle of Scott Boras’ traditional media scrum at the GM Meetings, during which he delivers carefully crafted one-liners amid a torrent of words meant to prime the market for his clients, the baseball super agent dropped this nugget.He had lunch with Arte Moreno just “the other day.”“It was good,” Boras said Wednesday of his meeting with the Angels owner. “He’s a guy that we talk baseball all the time. He’s very, very into the game. He’s really wanting to advance the interest of his franchise.”While there was no indication that this was anything more than a routine meeting, it certainly stokes plenty of intrigue, as well as tossing water on the decade-old narrative that Moreno and Boras don’t get along.center_img “If this were Major League Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that would clearly want a lump of Cole,” Boras said with a grin.That being said, the Angels figure to be on the short list. Boras made a point of saying that geography doesn’t give them an advantage, although obviously he doesn’t want to scare East Coast teams out of the bidding.“I don’t think geography matters to any of these guys as much as what matters is the continuance of winning and being able to achieve their goal of getting that rare win,” Boras said. “In Gerrit’s case, when you’re that close, you’re really looking at this process as one that ‘I’ve got a box to check and I want to go out and put together the best effort to put me in that position to do that.’”Cole and the Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Washington Nationals last month.Whoever signs the 29-year-old Cole is likely going to have to pay in excess of $30 million per year for at least seven years. Many have suspected that process will drag past the new year, reminiscent of Bryce Harper’s negotiations last winter. Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in late February, days after the start of spring training.Boras, who is also Harper’s agent, said he didn’t anticipate Cole taking that long. He said a report that Cole would not sign until January is “inaccurate.”Boras said “all” of his free agents “have the possibility of signing much earlier than that. The clubs are wanting meetings and they are wanting to get in front of the players. They are all telling me they are wanting to make much earlier decisions. I did not hear any of that last year.”Of course, every word out of Boras’ mouth is part of the negotiation. He obviously wants teams to believe there is fierce early interest in his clients, which encourages larger offers earlier.Boras’ negotiating tactics back in 2008 caused some friction with Moreno. The Angels had been trying to bring back Mark Teixeira when they reportedly pulled their offer, believing that Boras was simply using them to drive up the cost for other teams. Teixeira ended up signing with the New York Yankees.Boras said Wednesday that any conflict with Moreno is ancient history.“It’s so distant I don’t remember it,” he said. “I sit down with (Moreno) every year. I see him all the time. We have a common restaurant where we run into one another. I wouldn’t read much into it.”Angels general manager Billy Eppler said that he’s seen no evidence of any friction between Moreno and Boras. Eppler said his relationship with Boras has been good for 17 years, since Eppler was starting out as an amateur scout in Southern California.Eppler said he has lunch with Boras every winter, although he wouldn’t say if this winter’s meeting had happened yet.At some point, presumably Cole will have a meeting with Eppler, Moreno and probably Manager Joe Maddon, and they’ll have their chance to demonstrate to him that he should sign with the Angels.As far as Boras is concerned, the sooner all that happens, the better.“I think any player wants to sign early,” Boras said. “I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t want to have this process done to his satisfaction (early). Obviously you have to have meetings and you through an inaugural conceptual exchange with franchises you are going to be working with for a long period of time. Those are things that are organic to the process. But any player wants to sign early.”last_img read more