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Is it time to hit the panic button for Syracuse?


Syracuse lost its second consecutive ACC game on Tuesday night as the Orange fell at home to Georgia Tech, 67-62, in a shocking home loss on Senior Night.

The Orange have now lost four of their last five games. The last two losses in particular, Syracuse was clearly outplayed by Virginia and Georgia Tech and the main problem lies with Syracuse’s lack of depth and lack of scoring balance.

Since the Orange lost DaJuan Coleman for the season, and with Jerami Grant battling a back injury, Syracuse is only playing seven players on a consistent basis and the drop-off between Grant and Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson — Grant’s backups — is significant on both ends of the floor.

Without Grant’s length, athleticism and ability to make plays above the rim, Syracuse is struggling on both ends of the floor. Gbinije isn’t nearly as active — or long and athletic — in the 2-3 zone and he isn’t nearly as good of an offensive player as Grant.

Georgia Tech was able to work the ball inside on numerous occasions against the Syracuse 2-3 zone and the Yellow Jackets used a high-low passing game that wouldn’t be nearly as easy with Grant’s length in the lineup.

Gbinije is shooting a woeful 36 percent from the field on the season and he doesn’t provide energy around the rim like Grant does. Roberson is a true freshman that has only appeared in 18 games this season and is shooting 30 percent from the field. If Syracuse opts to go bigger and put Baye-Moussa Keita in along with Rakeem Christmas, their offense still struggles because Keita isn’t much of a threat besides bunnies at the rim and putbacks.

This puts an enormous amount of pressure on Syracuse’s main three shooting options: C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney.

If just one of those guys has an off-night then Syracuse usually struggles to crack 60 points. Fair and Ennis have delivered on the offensive end fairly consistently this season, but Cooney has been all over the map in ACC play.

Cooney has the ability to stretch the floor and carry Syracuse to victory like the 9-for-12 performance from the three-point line he had against Notre Dame, but he’s also susceptible to 2-for-12 games like he’s had against Miami and North Carolina.

Over the last five games, Cooney is 7-for-37 from the three-point line as he’s logged 35.6 minutes per game.

It could just be that all three of Syracuse’s primary options are wearing down by playing so many minutes. Fair averages 37.7 minutes a game, Ennis 35.1 and Cooney 32.4.

Syracuse just doesn’t have the same pep in its step as it did to start the season and they aren’t as crisp on rotations or movements away from the ball these last few games. The Orange look tired and the scoring burden placed on Fair, Ennis and Cooney without Grant in the lineup seems to be taking a toll on them.

If Syracuse is to contend for a title, they need Grant to get healthy or they need a fourth scorer to step up and take the pressure off of Fair, Ennis and Cooney. Since back injuries can be a fickle thing to deal with, the Orange had better hope that a fourth player steps up quickly or the Orange could be in serious trouble.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?