Ortiz has best chance

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Perhaps the ball is not bouncing the right way for the Syracuse University men’s basketball team or perhaps it’s a lack of execution down the stretch in conference games.

Either way, the Orange will try a break a three-game losing streak in ACC play tonight when it hosts the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome.

SU is only 2-4 this season in games decided by five or fewer points. SU won the first two close ones against Indiana (in double overtime) and Florida before losing four straight close games that included Georgetown, Virginia, Miami and Wake Forest (in OT).

SU (7-8 overall, 1-3 league) fell to a losing record at the latest stage (15 games) of any season in head coach Jim Boeheim’s 46-year tenure as head coach.

Boeheim said over the weekend that senior guard Buddy Boeheim is the only player on the squad getting decent looks at the basket, while the others most of the time are not getting into proper position against defenders to get decent shots.

The Orange has to improve its scoring defense, averaging a league-worst 76.5 points per game among the ACC’s 15 schools.

Other than that, you look at this SU team and it’s a total mystery. The Orange is fourth in scoring offense at 78.5 ppg. SU is second in assists, fourth in 3-point FG%, steals and blocked shots, fifth in rebounding, seventh in FT%, and eighth in overall FG%.

With both his sons, Buddy and Jimmy, leaving the program in the spring, there’s a better than 50-50 chance that Jim will finally step down.

I think the SU script for this season will follow others past: achieve a seventh or eighth seed in the ACC Tournament, win a game or two before bowing out, then get a ninth or 10th seed in the NCAA Tournament, win a couple of games against schools who can’t shoot over a 2-3 zone, before it finally runs into a more athletic program from a power conference and sees the end of the season.

n Thoughts on the NFL playoffs: It should be a great Super Wild-Card Weekend with six games. Here are my fearless picks:

AFC — Bengals over Raiders; Bills over Pats; Chiefs over Steelers in the wild card; Titans over Bengals and Chiefs over Bills in the division, and Chiefs over Titans in the title game.

NFC — Rams over Cardinals; Bucs over Eagles; 49ers over Cowboys in the wild card; 49ers over Packers and Bucs over Rams in the division, and Bucs over 49ers in the title game.

n Richie Rich’s NFL Top 10 rankings (Final): 1. Packers; 2. Chiefs; 3. Bucs; 4. Titans; 5. Cowboys; 6. Bills; 7. Rams; 8. Bengals; 9. 49ers; 10. Patriots.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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