Syracuse basketball: It's time to wake up. And that means the players, the fans, and Jim Boeheim.
It's time to stop playing down to your opponents. It's time to start showing up for games. It's time to get things figured out. It's time to be intelligent.
This program has struggled for two years and it's on the verge of struggling again for a third year in a row.
This team has more talent than almost every school in the country. It's undeniable this team has enough weapons to make a serious run at a Big East title.
But talent doesn't single-handily win titles. It's intangibles, it's heart, and teamwork.
I've only been connected to this program for three years, but I've been connected to almost the entire life of this group of players. Only Arinze Onuaku and Eric Devendorf have played for the 'Cuse before my time on campus.
For three years, this team has played down to its opponents. Earlier this year, members of the team even admitted to playing down to its opponents.
It's why this team almost never blows teams out of the water. Just this year alone, Syracuse should have beaten up on Richmond, Virginia, Cornell, and Cleveland State by double digits. Instead, all those games went down to the last minute. CSU ended in a Viking buzzer beater from 75 feet to send the Orange to defeat.
Obviously most teams aren't going to put away every opponent by a wide margin (unless your UNC), but the Orange should have won two if not three of those games convincingly.
The 'Cuse has trailed in six games this year, winning five of those games. To give SU credit, this team has shown incredible heart to comeback, pull things together, and continue to pull off victory after victory.
But at the same time, that's one of this team's main problems.
There is no emotion out of this team until it matters. This lack of emotion is affecting the fans too. The Carrier Dome crowd is dead—almost every single game. The past two years, the fans and students showed up and were very loud, even during the early non-conference schedule. The past two years, this team wasn't very good, losing at home to Wichita State, Drexel, UMass, and Rhode Island, but this year this team is very good.
This year, after opening up with two early wins over the past two national champions in Kansas City, the team returned home for games against Cornell and Colgate.
The team may have returned home, but the fans didn't. Attendance numbers are on par with the past, but the atmosphere is pathetic. When SU needed to rally against Cornell, the crowd started to get into the game and was loud at times, but didn't stay into the game during the entire second half.
The students haven't been showing up either. Even last year during the non-conference schedule, students filled the majority of the lower level sitting, now 10 minutes before the game starts, students can find seats pretty much anywhere in the student section.
Post-game reports and live-blogs done by Syracuse media outlets and blogs depict the crowd being dead during the last two games against Long Beach State and Cleveland State.
Even without students at those games since school was out for break, the rest of the crowd should have been into those games, especially the CSU game.
Former SU great Gerry McNamara and Demetris Nichols were both in the house, and their presence alone should have spurred the crowd. It did against Wichita State two years ago. Eight minutes left in that game, SU is down 59-40, McNamara is shown on the jumbo-tron and the place erupted. The crowd didn't sit for the rest of the game. SU went on a 21-2 run to tie the game, but ultimately lost it on, ironically, a Nichols missed lay-up.
The only game the crowd has really been in to was the Virginia game which game three days after the Florida/Kansas sweep.
After Syracuse was left out of the NCAA Tournament two years ago, fans showed up to the NIT in record-breaking numbers, declaring themselves the best college fans in America.
If SU fans are the best, why does during most games the Carrier Dome only get loud when the message boards around the Dome say, "Get up and get loud?"
The Carrier Dome is known as the Loud House. It certainly hasn't been loud this year.
During the past three years, the Orange has responded to one thing more than anything and that's the crowd. When the crowd gives a half-hearted effort, this team follows suit.
Fans no longer respond because this team doesn't play with discipline. This message is all over message boards, comments on blogs, and Syracuse.com, the Web site affiliated with the local newspaper.
And this problem falls on coach Jim Boeheim.
The Salt City loves Boeheim. They always will, I always will. He delivered a national title. But in post-game news conference after post-game news conference, Boeheim continues to say the same things, "the opposing team played great," "we turned the ball over too much and didn't remember," "the opposing team was out-hustling us."
What is going to take to get this team to hustle?
It's legitimately the one thing that stands in the way of this team being great.
Cleveland State killed this team on the offensive glass in the first half. It gave the Vikings multiple opportunities to score on single possessions, which eventually they cashed in on. If the 'Cuse just grabbed a couple more boards a game or even turned the ball over two or three fewer times per game, this team would probably won almost every game by double-digits.
It's time to bring back the hustle, teamwork, and desire. It's the only thing this team lacks because the talent is there.
Fans, players, and Jim Boeheim it's time to bring back being loud, being proud, and being Orange.