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

Kamala Harris says 2020 voters want a problem-solver

first_imgDES MOINES — California Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris says Midwesterners who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 want the 2020 presidential race to be a “mature conversation” about addressing the “hard” economic realities they’re confronting.“People want to talk about real issues and they don’t want to talk about it through the lens of political talk and partisanship and from an ideological perspective,” she told reporters Saturday afternoon in Des Moines.Harris made campaign stops in central and eastern Iowa this weekend. On Sunday in Davenport, Harris told a crowd she’s a former prosecutor who’ll be able to make the case against Trump. On Saturday in Des Moines, Harris accused Trump of vilifying immigrants rather than offering a plan to boost wages for working people in America.“The president has been spewing a lot of misinformation which has been corrected by officials of his own government and so this is a moment where the American people deserves to hear the truth and wants to hear the truth and be it in the primary or the general, that is my intention, which is to speak the truth,” Harris told reporters after meeting with members of the Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens.Immigrants are a benefit, not a drain on the economy, Harris said in answering an audience question at the event held in what used to be the Iowa Supreme Court chamber in the Iowa Capitol. Harris supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.“There’s a lot of work we have to do to restore American values and ideals in terms of how we do public policy on so many issues, including immigration,” Harris said, to applause from the crowd at the state capitol.Two other candidates who entered the 2020 presidential race last month were in Iowa this weekend, too. Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, criticized Trump’s immigration policy during an appearance in Denison.“We’re always going to need a secure border,” Castro said, “but we can also be humane.”Castro said additional investment in border security is appropriate, but separating children from parents crossing the border to seek political asylum is wrong.Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard campaigned in Des Moines, criticizing what she called “regime change wars” and suggesting the U.S. is on the brink of a “new Cold War.”“Take those billions of dollars we’re investing in wars and bring them here to invest in our people, to serve their needs,” Gabbard said.Colorado Senator Michael BennetA few Democrats who might enter the 2020 race were in Iowa this weekend, too. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is “leaning toward” running.“I’ve got a different set of experiences than a lot of people who’ve run for this job before,” Bennet told Radio Iowa. “I’ve been a school superintendent. I’ve been in business. I’ve been a lawyer and now I’ve been in the Senate for 10 years.”Bennet said the country has gone through a divisive decade and someone like him from the western U.S. could be a stabilizer.“We are oriented toward the future and we’re thinking about how you solve problems on the frontier, more than we’re thinking about how you nurse grudges,” Bennet said.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made stops in Sioux City and Des Moines as well, saying he is not ruling out a run for the White House.“We have to have a progressive as our nominee,” de Blasio told reporters Sunday. “…We also have to have a nominee who is believable as a leader in such an important position.”De Blasio advised his fellow Democrats to quit “taking the bait from Donald Trump” and present a “clear, unapologetic progressive message” to voters.last_img read more