Syracuse Orange-Pittsburgh Panthers: Loss Keeps Jim Boeheim Baffled
First they weren't rated at all. Then they were underrated. They soon became top-five rated.
Are they suddenly overrated?
Syracuse University began its season with an unexpected 13-0 start—which included wins against against three ranked opponents—rising from the depths of unranked to holding the fifth spot in both major polls.
That will likely change come Monday when new polls come out, with the Orange expected to drop following their home loss to unranked Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon.
To the untrained eye, this was simply a bump in the road. A blip of the radar, if you will.
An otherwise unbeatable team slipped up and lost a game they were probably destined to lose at some point during conference play.
However, if you've been watching closely, this loss wasn't as surprising as it might have appeared.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim told the media that he would wait until the start of conference play to really get a feel for how good his team was, and it didn't take long for the Orange to make a skeptic out of Boeheim.
Following a shaky road win earlier in the week against Seton Hall, the Orange looked lifeless and undetermined for much of the 40 minutes they played against Pitt.
Despite an early 20-10 lead, the Orange had trouble scoring all afternoon, while their patented zone defense, which had been all the rage for its improvement over last season's edition, was softer than the snow sitting atop the Carrier Dome.
The length of guards Andy Rautins and Brandon Triche was no match for the outside shooting of Pitt, who seemed to score at will in the second half.
Syracuse found themselves in foul trouble through much of the second half, as Wes Johnson played the final stretch of the game with four fouls, while forward Rick Jackson and center Arinze Onuaku both fouled out.
Triche struggled for the second consecutive game at the point, unable to find any offensive rhythm, while Rautins also lacked the sharp shooting prowess he seemed to possess before conference play began.
Johnson, the seemingly reliable do-it-all transfer, finished with a modest line of 19 points and six rebounds, stats which pale in comparison to the 20 and 19 he put up in Newark Tuesday night.
On one hand, this is only their first loss of the season, and it came at the hands of a team that may have some sort of psychological edge on the Orange.
Pitt has won the last four meetings between these teams in the Carrier Dome, while also winning the last seven regular season meetings overall.
On the other hand, you're talking about the fifth-ranked team in the country playing their first conference game at home against an unranked opponent.
Sure, the Big East is a very talented, deep conference, and Pitt is a well-coached, hard-nosed team. However, losing your home conference opener after winning the first 13 games of the season seems perplexing.
Turnovers were the major problem Tuesday night in their victory over Seton Hall (they had 20), while their overall effort seemed lacking on Saturday. The offense was flat, the defense was soft, and the the energy was inexplicably low.
The Orange will get a brief reprieve from conference play this upcoming Wednesday as Memphis visits the Carrier Dome looking to extract some revenge after suffering a loss last season at home to these Orange. The game will be the final non-conference game of the regular season for Syracuse.
It's far too soon to start calling this team overrated; however, the loss to Pitt featured Syracuse facing a double-digit deficit for much of the second half. This is noteworthy, as the Orange had defeated all but one of their opponents by double figures heading into the game against Pitt.
Overrated, underrated—these terms are sure to be thrown around by just about everybody in the media and amongst the fans looking to label the Syracuse team.
Everybody, that is, except their head coach.
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