Monday, March 1, 2010

The Syracuse Swoon

BKC: Villanova vs Syracuse Feb 27

There's been no mid-season swan dive for Jim Boeheim's team this year

Throughout most of the past decade, the one consistent issue that reappears year after year for Syracuse basketball is the rough patch the team seems to hit every February. Sometimes the bad stretch starts in late January, but generally you can pencil in losses that come in bunches for the Orange during conference play.

Looking at the issue rationally, it makes perfect sense. The team is playing the heart of what is always a tough Big East schedule. They are playing against opponents that are familiar with their personnel and style of play. And the players are faced with multiple road games and scheduling quirks that sometimes call for very little rest between games. I'm positive that it's not a unique phenomenon to the Orange -- however it is a team we live and die with so of course we are hyper-sensitive to it.

Today is March 1st and Syracuse is number one in the country - so obviously they didn't go through a traditional mid-season "swoon." However, that doesn't mean the Orange didn't go through a rough patch. It just means they are so good this year that although they weren't playing great, they still won those games.

Let's take a closer look at recent history and how it compares to this year. All information comes courtesy of the great Orange Hoops web site.

2003-04 Season -From January 20th to February 7th SU went 1-4 with losses to Seton Hall, Pitt, Connecticut and Providence. Only a win against lowly Virginia Tech saved the Orange from a 5 game losing streak. SU finished the season 23-8 and made it to the Sweet Sixteen.

2004-05 Season - From January 29th to February 19th the Orange went 2-4 losing to Pitt, Connecticut twice and BC. SU finished the year 27-7 and suffered a heart breaking first round loss to Vermont in the NCAAs.

2005-06 Season - From January 16th to February 15th SU's season unraveled, as the Orange went 2-6 through this stretch, then 10 days later went on another 3 game losing streak. Lead by Gerry McNamara the Orange ran the table in the Big East tournament (I was at every game) and found themselves in the NCAA tournament where they were bounced by Texas A&M in the first round.

2006-07 Season - From January 21st to February 5th SU went 1-4. The Orange rebounded and managed to finish 10-6 in conference before being infamously snubbed from the NCAA tournament. Let's just move on.

2007-08 Season - From February 6th to March 1st the Orange went 1-5. The whole season was marred by injuries and turned out to be a hot mess. The team ended the season 19-13 and went to the NIT for the second straight year.

2008-09 Season - From January 14th to February 11th the Orange went 2-6. The team rebounded to finish the year 28-10 and made a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

2009-2010 Season - With only two losses all year, it's clear that SU avoided the dreaded "swoon." However, that doesn't mean they didn't hit a rough patch where they didn't play well - it just means they still WON GAMES while not hitting on all cylinders. From January 30th to February 14th SU went 4-1, however they only beat DePaul by 2 in an ugly game. They beat Connecticut by 5 and got the benefit of the doubt on a call down the stretch and they lost to Louisville at home. Since the Louisville loss, the team has righted the ship, including Saturday's epic beat down of Villanova. With Wes Johnson getting healthier and Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph settled into their roles, the team is again hitting on all cylinders.

How the season ends is anyone's guess, but when the team wins games during stretches that have historically been treacherous - that's something special. Enjoy this season people - soak up every minute of it, because it doesn't happen often. As we've seen, the swoon hits good teams - just not great ones.


Josh said...

Great analysis! I hadn't really ever consciously recognized the 'swoon' pattern, though I'm sure I've felt it in my bones over the past many years. You are absolutely spot-on about that stretch of games this season. We were all grumbling about how badly the team was playing and thinking "it'll catch up to us in the end" but instead they seem to have fought off the swoon and are back at their usual end-of-season good form. Outstanding post.

Poncho Sinatra said...

Nice post-We are usually worrying about a Big East tournament run to get us a decent seed for the NCAA's right now. It's definitely a unique/awesome/strange place for a 'Cuse fan right now.

OrangeRay said...

Outstanding Analysis. I agree that a team can 'hide a swoon' by still winning games. I think the reverse can also be true; a team can be playing great basketball and lose a few games because they happen to meet superior competition.

Anonymous said...

Not only do they typically have a "swoon", they always seem to have a head scratcher loss. You know, Herve Lamzana banks in a 3 as time expires to beat the NC team at Rutgers. EVERY YEAR that happens. This year they have avoided that game (DePaul) so far. Granted, SJU has all the earmarks of a trap game, but you just kind of feel like this team won't have that.

Russianator said...

that's a great point about the WTF loss - of course I've probably jinxed them