January 25, 2011
The orange-clad crowd at the Carrier Dome was already streaming for the exits midway through the second half of Syracuse's shocking 90-68 loss to Seton Hall when coach Jim Boeheim signaled to the remaining fans it was time to leave.
He abandoned his beloved two-three zone and switched to man-to-man.
This isn't the first time Boeheim has ever scrapped his trademark defense, but rarely have the circumstances been so desperate. Syracuse's zone had been shredded in back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Villanova, the Orange trailed again by 19 points and Seton Hall was shooting well over 50 percent.
Man-to-man or zone, box-and-1 or full-court press, Syracuse never generated enough defensive stops to make any sort of run at Seton Hall, suffering its third straight loss after an impressive 18-0 start. It was Syracuse's most lopsided loss since 2006 when it lost 108-69 at DePaul.
If Illinois-Chicago's win over Illinois and Auburn's victory over Florida State were the season's two biggest upsets, this Seton Hall victory at the Carrier Dome wasn't far behind. The Pirates entered the game having lost eight of 10 including an embarrassing six-point home setback at the hands of in-state rival Rutgers in their most recent game.
Explaining the sudden ineffectiveness of Syracuse's defense is difficult considering that hadn't been a season-long issue, but some of the credit has to go to Seton Hall for its blistering 10 of 17 shooting from 3-point range.
As for Syracuse's offensive woes, it was the same old story. Guards Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine continue to struggle with shot selection, decision-making and turnovers, though they did a better job of getting big man Rick Jackson touches in the paint on Tuesday night.
The biggest concern for Syracuse should be that this losing streak could mushroom with three straight road games up next. It's imperative that the Orange find a way to win at Marquette on Saturday because what follows is a visit to UConn.
Three straight losses have left Syracuse's Big East title hopes on life support. One or two more, and you can probably pull the plug.