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Axe: Syracuse basketball is overdue for an NBA draft win

Syracuse, NY — Barring a major surprise, Thursday night will come and go without a Syracuse University basketball player selected in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft.

The odds tilt in favor of a Syracuse player not being selected at all in tonight’s draft.

Buddy Boeheim and Cole Swider are the two best candidates from Syracuse, but you won’t see either show up in the mock drafts no matter how much you Control+F their names.

Boeheim, who worked out for 13 NBA teams in the pre-draft process, is rated a Top 100 prospect by ESPN (No. 92) and The Athletic (No. 94), but there are only 58 picks in the two-round draft .

Swider worked out for 12 teams, including twice for the Los Angeles Lakers, but is a longer shot than any of the 81 3-pointers he hit in an Orange uniform to get drafted.

If the projections hold and the two sharpshooters go undrafted, that would extend a drought of first-round picks for Syracuse to five years and counting.

It would also add up to a total of just two Syracuse players selected in the overall draft in the last five years.

That represents a significant drop-off from a 10-year period from 2008 to 2017 when Syracuse had a first-round pick in nine of 10 drafts, including two in the first round in 2012 (Dion Waiters, Fab Melo).

Syracuse had a total of five second-round picks in those 10 years.

Boeheim and Swider’s best path to the league seems to invest in the Oshae Brissett plan.

Brissett went undrafted out of Syracuse in 2019 but worked his way through the NBA G-League and made a mark in international play that kept getting him looks at the next level.

Brissett played in 67 games with the Pacers this past season.

“It comes down to all the little things,” Brissett told me last year. “Every team has a star or an all-star. You come in, you rebound. You dive on the floor. That stuff is going to get the coach excited and get you on the court.

“Every day was an audition. I felt like eyes were on me at all times. I am going to treat every day like that. Nothing is ever given. Just be myself, be humble. That’s what I have to be. Everything will work out.”

An NBA scout from a Western Conference team offered a glimmer of hope for Boeheim, telling syracuse.com that he doesn’t get why he is buried so far down the charts. The scout thinks the 13th-leading scorer in SU history is a mid-second round pick, maybe even early second round.

“Once you get past pick 35 or so, there’s not a lot out there that’s better than Buddy,” the scout said.

Syracuse players will always have the stigma of defense that surrounds them, with questions on whether they can adjust out of Jim Boeheim’s zone and defend the best players in the world one-on-one.

“I think the biggest question coming from Syracuse is, ‘Can you defend?’ ” Swider told syracuse.com’s Mike Waters. “I’ve been showing I can defend. Teams are seeing I’m much more comfortable with the ball than I was before. I’ve come I can shoot from the NBA 3-point line .”

Bottom line? Syracuse is overdue to have a player picked in the first round if it wants to keep flexing its muscle as a big-time college basketball program.

In the ACC, only two programs have gone longer without a first-round pick: Clemson (2010) and Notre Dame (2015). Wake Forest, Louisville and NC State have also gone without a first-round pick since 2017.

Only four programs from last year’s final Top 25 poll (St. Mary’s, Illinois, Iowa, St. Peter’s) have gone longer than five years without a first-round NBA draft pick.

Syracuse basketball has felt plenty of players to the NBA over the years, but the current list is just five deep: Carmelo Anthony, Jerami Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, Elijah Hughes and Brissett.

Will the next first-round worthy Orange basketball talent please stand up?

Contact Brent Axe: Email | Twitter

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