To preview tonight's #OrangeEagle matchup between the Eagles and Orange, we sat down with John Cassillo of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to learn more about this year's Syracuse team. Our questions and his answers below.
BC Interruption: The big story this past week was Syracuse self imposing a post season ban for infractions that occurred in 2007. What's been the reaction of the fan base to the decision to do so, where is the blame going and any insight into the specifics around the infractions?
Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician: The fan base is sort of all over the place on this one. Most of the TNIAAM staff is solidly in favor—IF that means we're spared of further postseason-related bans from the NCAA (likely, since there's just no way at all they self-imposed without their input). The blame on the part of the school is also undecided, though it appears to be directed toward the former players that may have messed up instead of Jim Boeheim. The specifics around what those players (probably Fab Melo and maybe James Southerland) likely have something to do with academics and we've heard murmurs on pot use. I'll hold judgment—for all parties—until we get the full report, though.
BCI: Jim Boeheim is Syracuse basketball, but is there any thought that at 70 years old and dealing with the ban, he or the university will look at this as a possible parting point?
TNIAAM: You know, we hadn't really thought it could be the end until Monday's odd apology toward a Pittsburgh radio host. We've never seen him apologize to anyone—national or local—which is why it's at least slightly disconcerting that he's possibly "settling affairs." I've always been of the opinion that he'll go out when he wins another title though, and I think that remains true.
BCI: You guys have been in a bit of a funk the past three weeks, going 2-4 over that span including the highly forgettable win over BC in the Dome. What's the difference between the SU team that started off 4-0 in the ACC and the one we are seeing now?
TNIAAM: The SU team that started 4-0 in the ACC had Chris McCullough for part of that time, and that run was also against lesser opponents. Once the Orange lost McCullough to injury and the schedule difficulty ratcheted up, that's when this team started to feel the full weight of how inexperienced they were/are. Beyond Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney, there just isn't a lot of veteran presence on this team, and that's become very apparent night-in and night-out.
BCI: Post season ban aside, what was the real assessment on this team's chances to reach the NCAA tournament this year? 50/50 seemed to be most prevalent sentiment, but if you had to land on one side of the fence or the other, where would you fall and why?
TNIAAM: Oh, we weren't making the NCAAs. I'm not the most optimistic fan by any means, so take this all with a grain of salt, but the last seven games could all very well be losses. For reference, that stretch includes two games vs. Duke, plus one each against Louisville, Virginia, NC State, Notre Dame and Pitt. So yeah, this team was toast. And I'd be shocked if they can find their way to 20 wins on the season now.
BCI: BC has gotten improved production from Aaron Brown, who's been in double figures six straight games including the first Syracuse game, who's been the guy stepping up his game for SU since round 1?
TNIAAM: A combination of Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson, probably. Trying to avoid playing 2-on-5 most nights (Christmas and Cooney vs. the opposition), at least one of those guys has to really make his presence known. Gbinije is the one more likely to make shots (has scored 16 or more points in four of the last five games), while Roberson is an absolute force on the boards. So yeah...pick one, I guess.
BCI: Granted Syracuse got the all important #OrangeEagle points and the win the first time around, but what changes specific to BC do you see SU making for this game?
TNIAAM: Find better ways to cover BC's guards—who managed to account for 39 points last time around (no easy feat when Syracuse's best defender is Christmas in the middle). Staying out of foul trouble would be another thing, along with actually hitting free throws. For as good as the Eagles' guards were, that was absolutely SU's game to lose. But missing free throws (went 21-of-31) kept Boston College in it for far longer than they likely should have been.
BCI: BC continues to be competitive in the ACC but other than the "hang on by the skin of your teeth" win at Georgia Tech, has nothing to show for it. Can this be the night BC gets #2 or does SU get the road win? How do you see this one playing out?
TNIAAM: I mean, Syracuse is pretty well-situated for a loss here, no? Rough game against Virginia Tech, postseason ban, total collapse against Pitt...yeah, not great. At the same time, I could see the Orange try to turn things around on the road, proving to themselves they can still be successful despite having "nothing" to play for. I'm reluctant, but I'll take the Orange by a score of 66-62. You guys shouldn't have gone with throwback jerseys.