SU-Notre Dame Notebook: Tournament doubts?

With their 84-72 loss to Notre Dame Monday night, the No. 25 Syracuse Orangemen need to start worrying about making the NCAA Tournament. <br><br>

"We're going to be in it," freshmen Demetris Nichols said after the loss.

While it's good to be confident, his stance may not be accurate.

Syracuse fans should take a step back, examine the team, and see that it is in serious trouble.

In the first half, Syracuse's All-America candidates, Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick, combined to shoot 3-for-17. That's not good and coach Jim Boeheim knows it.

Then coach Boeheim, at the post-game press conference, once again belittled his freshmen, citing Demtris Nichols' charge during the Orangemen's run as a rookie mistake and a turning point in the game. Without Nichols and Louie McCroskey having confidence to play without being benched for mistakes, how will they succeed?

The problem with this year's Syracuse team, compared to last year's, is the confidence and freedom for the players isn't there.

Several times during Monday night's game Boeheim had to calm Warrick down and coax him into taking a better shot. That's good coaching. Why he's different with his freshmen I don't understand.

I'm not telling Boeheim how to coach. I'm just trying to understand it.

Freshmen need to learn from their mistakes and the only way to do that is to play through them. They're called rookie mistakes because they're expected of rookies. You can't tell a freshman not to be a freshman. They all can't be Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara.

IF, and I stress the IF, the Orangemen make it to the NCAA Tournament they are going to need their freshmen and they need them to play without fear, just instinct.

On to the tournament:

Anybody think Syracuse will get in with a 19-8 record heading into the NCAA Tournament? Yes, I do to.

That's what should happen if everything goes according to plan. It's unrealistic that Syracuse will beat either UConn or Pittsburgh, so they need to beat Villanova at home, and win at Georgetown and West Virginia. It shouldn't be that hard, but these Orangemen are capable of losing to anyone (see UNC-Charlotte).

If Syracuse loses to one of those three teams it will leave them with a 18-9 record going into the BIG EAST Tournament, meaning they'd end up something-10, depending on how many games they squeeze out of the tournament. If they lose in the first round of the tournament and drop to 18-10, I don't see how they could make the big dance.

Syracuse hasn't beaten one quality opponent this season, and got pummeled by their three ranked opponents.

In order to make the tournament Syracuse needs to go 3-2 over their last five scheduled games and grab at least one win in the BIG EAST Tournament.

That's right; Syracuse's tournament hopes are on shaky ground.

One more final note; anyone else notice the resurgence of Jeremy McNeil?

After scoring zero points in four minutes at Providence, McNeil, one of last year's championship heroes, has come on strong. Against Rutgers, he scored six points and blocked three shots. At Miami he scored a season high 10 points and Monday against Notre Dame, he put in six points down the stretch and grabbed six rebounds, all three games he played less than 20 minutes.

Is McNeil a possible Syracuse savior? No, but anything is worth a try at this point.

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