North Carolina spoils Jim Boeheim’s return

Updated: January 11, 2016

This past Saturday we made our annual trip the Carrier Dome to watch the Syracuse Orange in action, and by sheer luck of the calendar it just so happened to mark the return to the bench of Jim Boeheim. Combine that with a matchup against one of the blue bloods of college basketball in North Carolina, and on the surface it had all the makings of a memorable experience.

The environment both in the bars and in the Dome was fairly electric prior to tip-off, but I didn’t have a good feel about how things would play out once the game actually started. The ‘Cuse had been struggling since the start of ACC play, done in primarily by a lack of depth. Carolina on the other hand goes at least two deep at every position, running wave after wave at their opposition. I actually envisioned a thrashing, with Old Roy coming out on top.

Once the game started though, the flow of it seemed to favor Syracuse as it was primarily a half-court affair. Their were a few moments in the early portion of the contest and right after halftime where it appeared that UNC might pull away, but each time they built up a little separation, the Orange would make a run and close the gap. I’d like to say that the players were buoyed by the return of Jimmy B and played inspired because of his return, but in actuality Syracuse had been playing winning basketball for the first 30-35 minutes of their recent games under Hopkins before ultimately imploding. The much maligned Trevor Cooney even had one of the better outings of his entire career, scoring 27 points and abusing the smaller Tar Heel guards for most of the night.

Following a familiar pattern though, Carolina began to slowly pull away with about five-six minutes left. Most of the damage was done by Brice Johnson, who posted up in the middle of the Orange’s 2/3 zone and repeatedly found Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks for easy dunks and layups. UNC was running that same action over and over, and ‘Cuse was either unable or unwilling to adjust. The final score ended up being 84-73 (cheers for the late cover), a margin that doesn’t properly represent how close it was throughout.

From a big picture standpoint, though Syracuse scratched and clawed to remain competitive with Carolina, it was rather striking to see the talent disparity between the two teams when watching them up close and personal. While Carolina looks like your typical Carolina team, it is the exact opposite for Syracuse. Jimmy has had a late career revival in large part due to the long, talented athletes he has brought to Western New York, players that perfectly fit his 2/3 zone. This year’s team doesn’t fit the mold of past iterations, and they are quickly falling out of the tourney picture because of it.

Maybe this will be just a down year for the team, with reinforcements coming in next year in the form of highly touted recruits Tyrus Battle and Matthew Moyer. Playing in what is quickly turning into a stacked ACC Conference, hopefully they will be able to boast the talent levels on campus enough in order to reduce the slim margin of error the team is currently playing with.



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