“Aztecs-Building Tradition…Syracuse is Tradition”
San Diego State plays Syracuse in the 1st round of the NCAA tourney late Friday night in Indianapolis.
The Aztecs have become a quality program on the West Coast, but a national following has yet to happen.
Syracuse has all that and more because of Jim Boeheim, and what he did helping form the Big East Conference and then guiding the move to the ACC.
A look at the Orange from Syracuse.com reporter Brent Axe and the some of the storylines that have made Syracuse a national power as I asked-he answered.
THE DEMISE OF THE BIG EAST…WHAT WAS THE STRUGGLE LIKE FOR THE ORANGE TO LEAVE THE CONFERENCE
It was a moral struggle for sure given the history of Syracuse in the Big East but a no-brainer in terms of finances, television exposure and status in a Power 5 conference. You have to remember that when Syracuse went to the ACC there was a wild reshuffling of the deck in college sports. The pressure was on to cash in and that’s what Syracuse had to do, especially in football where the Big East had no foothold.
HAS THE MOVE TO THE ACC BEEN WELL RECEIVED BY THE FANS IN THE MARKET?
Fans understand why the moved had to be made but still miss the old Big East for sure. Syracuse still plays Georgetown every year, but it’s not the same.
A nice rivalry has blossomed with Duke. That game has produced some epic moments and record crowds in a short period of time. The problem is it is not a two-way rivalry. Ask 100 Duke fans who their rival is and they will all say North Carolina. Ask Syracuse fans the same question and it would be hard to get a consensus these days.
PERCEPTION SYRACUSE HAS SLIPPED IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE NCAA SANCTIONS YEARS AGO?
There is no question Syracuse has slipped a little. They have not finished higher than sixth place in the ACC other than the first year joining the conference and have been on the NCAA bubble every year since 2016. That said, there is a Final Four (2016) and Sweet 16 run (2018) built in to the conversation, so that tends to make up for lost ground in the regular season.
SURPRISE BOEHEIM IS STILL COACHING-FIGURED HE WAS GOING TO RETIRE AND HAND OVER THE REIGNS TO MIKE HOPKINS?
I’m honestly not surprised. I knew Boeheim would find a way to keep coaching. It’s what he does. The man is a lifer. As for when he retires, I honestly have no idea. There is a theory that he will step aside when his son, Buddy, graduates from Syracuse next year. I don’t buy it. I’ve always joked it is going to be a “Weekend at Bernie’s” situation. They are going to look at the end of the bench one day and he will have just quietly passed away.
HOW GOOD IS THIS TEAM….LIVE OFF ZONE….LIVE OFF OFFFENSE….DEFENSE NOT STRONG
This team certainly doesn’t live off the zone defense the way it has in the past, but the defense has been much better down the stretch of the season.
Syracuse lives and dies on two things; 3-point shooting and rebounding. Syracuse is undefeated (14-0) when it outrebounds opponents this year. You have to keep the Orange off the boards if you are going to win.
As for 3-point shooting, watch out for Boeheim’s son, Buddy. He has been hot down the stretch, averaging 22.5 points, shooting 31-of-67 (46%) from distance in that stretch. Alan Griffin, Joe Girard III and Robert Braswell off the bench can all hit 3’s as well.
GREAT VENUE….IS THE DOME STILL THE DOME…ROCKING WITH FANS?
There is nothing like it when 35,000 fans make the Carrier Dome shake for a big college basketball game, so you can imagine how weird it was to see the building completely empty this season.
Syracuse just finished a $118 million renovation of the facility and fans have barely had the opportunity to see what the new center hung scoreboard can do. The experience is only going to be better when those two factors are finally combined once COVID protocols ease.
BOEHEIM VS THE MEDIA…STILL AN ISSUE?
Absolutely! Boeheim is as feisty as ever. I interview Boeheim once a week on the radio and it is truly “box of chocolates” radio. You never know what you are going to get.
He got into hot water recently for calling out a reporter’s height during a recent press conference. He also made national headlines last month for his comments on Duke’s Jalen Johnson, though that got a little ridiculous because Boeheim’s opinion that Duke was better without Johnson got attached to some other narratives about the story that he didn’t even say.