The loss last weekend at the Carrier Dome to a streaking Georgetown team led by a dominant Otto Porter was understandable, and the subsequent loss on the road to a Marquette team that nobody's beaten at the Bradley Center since 2011 was acceptable.
But those two things still put Syracuse in a tough spot -- one in which the Orange would need to beat Louisville early Saturday to avoid a three-game losing streak. As you probably know by now, the Orange did not beat Louisville early Saturday to avoid a three-game losing streak. So this team that started 18-1 and was at one point ranked third nationally is suddenly 22-7 and tied for fifth in the Big East, and this can't possibly be the way that Jim Boeheim wanted his final season in a picked-apart league to unfold.
"We have to get through this and get to the next game and play better," Boeheim told reporters after Syracuse's 58-53 loss to Louisville, and I suppose those are all valid points.
But here's my question: How?
How is Syracuse going to get through this and play better?
To be clear, it's not like Syracuse stinks. The past three losses have come to schools ranked seventh, 10th and 22nd in the latest Associated Press Poll. Nothing embarrassing there. But a team with national championship aspirations shouldn't be struggling at this time of the year, and the worst part is that Syracuse's problems aren't obviously fixable.
The Orange can't shoot from the perimeter.
The Orange have nobody to throw it to on the block.
The Orange don't get to the free-throw line often enough.
The Orange don't keep opponents off the offensive glass nearly enough.
Granted, none of those things will keep them from beating DePaul on Wednesday to snap their two-game losing streak at the Carrier Dome and three-game losing streak in general because DePaul, well, DePaul just isn't very good. But do the Orange look like a team ready to win next weekend at Georgetown or advance deep in the NCAA tournament? Not right now, they don't. Not after scoring fewer than 54 points while shooting less than 36 percent from the field for the second time in three outings.
The Orange no longer look like the team that started 18-1.
That's because they're now a team that's just 4-6 in their past 10 games.