The USF game showed us the Orange we so vividly recall from December. Dominance inside by Jackson. Brief spurts of competence by the otherwise ineffective centers. Brandon Triche playing well for a while, then disappearing for long stretches. Excellent point guard play, but only when said guards were focused and under control. Whenever they started taking things for granted, they relaxed on defense and let up some easy baskets, or made bad decisions with the ball on offense (silly passes or purposeless drives into the lane). Yet because their opponent was a markedly inferior club, they were able to get away with these lapses and ultimately cruise to a victory. Heck, even the crowd reminded me of a December game in the Dome.
There isn’t much to take away from a game like this, other than the always-nice Conference Road Win. The defense was good, but it helped that USF really doesn’t have any consistently good shooters. The offense was somewhat clunky but nonetheless effective. The only way this game would be a story is if it hadn’t gone this way. If it came down to the wire or something… or worse. If you are Syracuse, you expect to, and are expected to, beat USF fairly easily. So when you do, there isn’t much else to say. We all take it for granted that the Orange will come away victorious in this sort of mismatch.
The other thing we basically take for granted is Jim Boeheim winning 20 games. Since nobody talks about SU’s historic streak of consecutive winning seasons, it’s the 20-win benchmark that has become the favored indicator of consistent success. As you have undoubtedly read elsewhere, Jim’s got 33 such seasons, which is an NCAA record. Of course the 20-win mark is easier to achieve now than it was, say, 25 years ago, thanks to today’s longer seasons. (As a comparison, the 1985-86 Orangemen went 23-4 in the regular season; this year’s team is 20-4 with seven regular season games left.) But this is still an amazing accomplishment. The inimitable OrangeHoops has a great post up that dispels the myth that all these 20-win seasons are a result of Syracuse historically cupcake-loading the nonconference schedule. He also points out that most of the time it’s been not just 20 wins, but 22 or 23 or better. Refer to it if ever you need ammunition against haters.