As students begin to file out to travel home this weekend, the quickly approaching Thanksgiving holiday not only signifies the beginning of cancelled flights and forced family fun, but it also signifies the start of college basketball’s “Feast Week.” Over this next week, cities spanning from New York City to Maui host smaller scaled tournaments that feature the first true, competitive matchups of the season. For Syracuse, their first test came last night on a national stage in Madison Square Garden against the UCONN Huskies.
Despite feeling a sense of nostalgia and excitement seeing the once Big East rivals back in action at the Garden, Syracuse fans were disappointed as Head Coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange suffered an 83-76 loss. After consecutive losing seasons for a historically winning UCONN program, last night’s upset came as quite of a shock to fans who expect great results out of a Syracuse team that is returning an NCAA high of 90.8% of the minutes played from their roster last season.
Although the game started off neck and neck, the flow never seemed to favor Syracuse as UCONN slowly extended their lead by six at halftime after hitting a pair of free throws. This momentum eventually carried over into the second half when the Huskies came out with a strong 16-9 run, pushing their lead to ten. The early run proved to be a key point in the game as the Orange could never overcome the deficit despite a late effort led by freshman point guard Jalen Carey (26 points) to cut the lead down to four with two minutes left.
Glancing at the statistics, it is clear that the loss stemmed from the team’s 10 total assists and measly 27.3% three-point percentage. Although these numbers detail a difficult offensive night, Syracuse fans should not see this result as a bad omen like many fans tend to do. Only two weeks into the season, these Thanksgiving tournaments primarily serve as an indicator of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, last night’s game has proven that the Orange must focus on consistently shooting the basketball in the flow of the offense, which will gradually improve with the help from a Hall of Fame coach.
However, for those pessimists who have begun to doubt the Orange, there is one statistic from last night's game that should slightly concern fans: rebounding. Growing up as a basketball player, the classic coach cliché was lecturing the team on how anyone, no matter their size or skill ability, could rebound. For a team that prides itself on height and length all the way down the depth chart, being outrebounded 40 to 26 does not reflect the effect of an early season, but rather, it reflects a lack of effort.
Fortunately for Syracuse, they have an immediate chance to correct several mistakes as they take on freshman phenom Bol Bol and the Oregon Ducks this evening for third-place. Of course, the team will not transform overnight, but in order to compete in the ACC this season, the Orange must begin to develop a strong foundation of leadership behind veterans and star players, Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle, who can help the squad reach its potential on both ends of the floor.