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

Ghana set to miss out on Timothy Fosu Mensah after being called up by Holland

first_imgGhana are set to miss out on young Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu Mensah after he was called up by Dutch coach Danny Blind for their friendlies against Ireland, Poland and Austria later this month.Interest in Fosu Mensah had risen following a string of impressive performances for the Red Devils.The Manchester United defender is set to follow fellow internationals Memphis Depay and Georgino Winjnaldum both of Ghanaian descent to play for the Oranje.Fosu-Mensah’s inclusion in Netherlands full squad means he will miss U19 Euros. Probably a ploy to stave off Ghana interest. – Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. Our hashtag is #JoySportslast_img read more