Syracuse’s game against Duke on Saturday did not go as planned. In fact, it was a rare noncompetitive game for the Orange, who have been in a position to win in seemingly every matchup this season despite 11 losses. With two games now left on the schedule, and no more because of the self-imposed postseason ban, hitting the 20-win mark has to be the goal.
Syracuse came into the 2014-15 campaign with 17 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 36 such years under head coach Jim Boeheim. Boeheim’s 36 20-win seasons is the most in college basketball history.
Sitting at 18 wins, winning two more will not be easy. Obviously a win on Saturday would have given Syracuse some margin for error. Now, they have to win each of their final two games against two good teams.
The Orange welcome second ranked Virginia into the Carrier Dome on Monday. The Cavaliers have only lost one game all year and may have the best defense in the country.
The good news for Syracuse is that Justin Anderson, considered Virginia’s best player by many, has missed several games with an injury and is not expected back against the Orange. The Cavs’ backcourt of Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes were both recently banged up.
The game is also in the Carrier Dome and is senior night for star center Rakeem Christmas. You have to expect their best effort to honor their leader.
If Syracuse is able to pull off an upset at home, they will have to win on the road against an NC State squad that has been up and down, but will need to win to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.
That’s the only path to another 20-win season, winning those last two against two good teams. One great team and one solid, desperate team.
”The season ends every year,” Boeheim said. “It’s never pretty. Except for one time. It’s always difficult. You’ve got two really tough games. We’ve got the second best team in the country to play on Monday night and a very tough game against NC State. That’s what we’re focused on.”
The last two games will provide Syracuse a conclusion to a season that has not lived up to the high expectations of the recent past. It will also provide conclusion to one with the NCAA cloud hanging over it, one in which they were forced to self-impose a postseason ban.
”It’s not fun not being able to go to a tournament,” Boeheim said. “It’s very difficult. It is what it is. You’ve got to accept it and move forward.”
That’s exactly what Syracuse will do. Move forward. The immediate attention will be on finishing this season strong. Sending Rakeem Christmas out on a positive note and getting to that 20-win mark to keep the streak alive.