Men's Basketball

Afterthoughts: During press conference rant, Jim Boeheim tees off on notion that Syracuse basketball is in 3-year downward spiral

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim argued that regular-season records don’t matter as long as his team makes it to the Big Dance.

Following Syracuse’s 77-66 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, head coach Jim Boeheim took aim at a Syracuse.com article that stated the Orange has been on a downward spiral over the past three years. Since Tyler Ennis hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give SU a dramatic 58-56 win at Pittsburgh three years ago, Syracuse has been “a rather ordinary entity,” the article states.

SU hadn’t beaten the Panthers since — until Saturday, when the Orange jumped out to a 21-point halftime lead and eased to an 11-point victory in the Carrier Dome to improve to 2-1 in conference play. The win came less than a week after an embarrassing 15-point loss to Boston College to open its ACC slate.

Boeheim didn’t have any more questions to answer at the 4:55 mark of his postgame press conference but raised the issue on his own, before upholding a back-and-forth “entertainment” session that lasted almost 10 minutes. You can watch the full rant here, starting at around the five-minute mark:

Boeheim, in short, states that Syracuse would probably have won one or two NCAA Tournament games in the 2014-15 season had it not self-imposed a postseason ban. He also argues the Orange’s 12-loss regular season in the 2015-16 campaign didn’t matter since Syracuse ended up making a surprise appearance at the Final Four as a No. 10 seed.

Unlike any press conference in recent years, Boeheim neared a shouting match with the reporter, eventually turning the back-and-forth from an attack into a laughable session that the SU head coach chided that viewers pay to see anyway.

“When you go to the Final Four, you could lose 20 games. It doesn’t matter,” Boeheim said. “Those are just numbers that you put in the paper that don’t mean anything.”

Syracuse fans will remember the 2016 Final Four run over an 0-4 start in conference play and a 12-loss regular season that included two defeats to Pittsburgh – and one more in the conference tournament – and a 12-point loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. Yes, Boeheim is right in claiming Tournament results trump regular season records.

Three seasons ago, the Orange suffered an upset loss to 11-seed Dayton in the second round. Two seasons ago, SU wasn’t eligible for the NCAA Tournament after self-imposing a postseason ban. One year ago, the Orange squeaked into the field as a No. 10 seed and was the third-to-last team standing.

In the end, Boeheim’s point was that regular-season records don’t matter as long as his team makes it to the Big Dance. Few cared about the 25-0 start since No. 3 seed Syracuse was upset by a No. 11 seed. In the 2014-15 season, SU’s regular season was rendered meaningless once it wasn’t eligible for postseason play. And even though the Orange lost 12 regular season games last season, it didn’t matter. What Syracuse does in the NCAA Tournament — if it makes it there this season — is what it will be judged on.

“Last year was the fifth-best year I’ve ever had here. Ever. 40 years. The fifth-best year that I’ve had here,” Boeheim said. “ … If you just count wins, that means nothing.”

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