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Syracuse Basketball Roundtable #4: What Went Wrong at Villanova?

Before news broke Monday night of DaJuan Coleman's impending knee surgery, TNIAAM convened its panel of basketball "experts" (emphasis on the ") to discuss the Orange's loss to Villanova on Saturday.

Can someone please get this man the ball in crunch time?
Can someone please get this man the ball in crunch time?

Participating in the conversation were contributors Andrew Pregler, Sean Keeley, Dan Lyons, John Cassillo, Matt McClusky, and yours truly.

Now that we have had a couple of days to think it over, what is the single most glaring reason why Syracuse lost to Villanova?

Sean Keeley: Does "not taking advantage of critical moments" count? Killer instinct is something we generally find lacking in Syracuse basketball teams (2010 and 2012 withstanding). This team just seemed unable to take advantage of those critical moments when they could have stomped on Villanova's neck and finished them off. And maybe the missed rebounding opportunities and free throws fall under that but it just felt like whenever Syracuse needed someone to step up and take over, it wasn't there.

Dan Lyons: I went into this in my post on Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche on Monday, but I think the inability to do anything on offense while the stall was on really killed us. MCW is not as good a shooter as Triche, he's an inconsistent finisher, and he has a tendency to over-dribble and turn the ball over, and these weaknesses are amplified when we're running an offense with ten seconds left. I'd rather see Triche, the safer player who can bail himself out with his jumper, handle the ball in these situations, when we're burning the clock up a few points.

John Cassillo: Can I just say Michael Carter-Williams? Or rather, the bad side effects of allowing him to play hero-ball for a week straight? MCW's refusal to pass the ball while we were playing stall ball lead to two costly turnovers near the end of regulation. Additionally, his late missed free throw was the reason 'Nova was within one possession. There are a ton of other reasons, but if we have to name one, this is where I'm looking.

Matt McClusky: It's hard to pick, there were a lot of reasons why Syracuse lost at Villanova. I'll say the lack of depth, specifically the loss of James Southerland, was probably the biggest underlying theme. While the Orange have certainly missed its second leading scorer, I don't think we saw just how big of a loss Southerland is until Syracuse was in major foul trouble, relying on DaJuan Coleman and Trevor Cooney in crunch-time action. With Southerland Syracuse would have had one more proven scorer, one that would have been a big asset when Jim Boeheim had his Orange take the air out of the ball. Without him, the SU offense was hurting.

Andrew Pregler: I'm not sure if there is one reason for this reason: All of the breakdowns and mistakes that took place in the final few minutes of the game should have never happened if Syracuse just took care of business early on like we all know they're capable of. Narrowing it down, I'll go with the lack of leadership from Brandon Triche. He's had the hot hand, he's made the big shots and been the most consistent scoring threat out there. He didn't demand the ball over the young mistake prone MCW and it cost the Orange.

Jeremy Ryan: I'm actually going to praise Villanova here. They came in with a good strategy - lifted from Temple - to make Michael Carter-Williams beat them. It worked. MCW did score 17 points, but on 4-17 shooting from the floor, and of course he missed a crucial free throw late in regulation that could have sealed the win for SU. He also failed to get hot hand Brandon Triche (23 points) the ball when they needed a bucket, preferring to try to put the team on his own back. So I'm not saying he's to blame, but…

What do you think about the end of game stall/clock management strategy?

SK: I admit I hadn't paid attention to how critical this whole "foul when up three" argument is but I gotta say, outcome of the game aside, it makes a lot of sense to me now. It just feels like one of those anti-stat ideas that fouling there doesn't "feel" right even though the odds are in your favor. I'm not gonna kill Boeheim too much because his reasoning was somewhat understandable. However, I'd like to think that given another opportunity, Boeheim would go with the fouling strategy instead.

DL: While we drop a game we start stalling in every few years, I really don't think you can argue with the strategy, as it has aided in dozens and dozens of wins during my time watching Syracuse basketball. Boeheim is a big numbers guy, and his teams are usually good at closing out games, with the occasional Paul Harris in-bounds debacle or Villanova loss marring an otherwise airtight record. As for the whole "not fouling up three" issue, I could go either way on that, but considering how poorly Nova had performed at the line on Saturday, I would probably lean towards fouling there. That really seems to be more of a hindsight issue though. If Arcidiacono's three rattles out, few people bring that decision up.

JC: Awful. When you're only up by a couple possessions, you can't start stalling with three minutes left on the clock. You shouldn't be running down the floor to shoot a contested three-pointer four seconds into the possession either. But there's nothing wrong with running an actual play with the intention of scoring, rather than what Syracuse usually does there -- just tries to waste clock, and creating a sloppy mad rush to the basket with a few seconds to go on the shot clock.

MM: One of the MANY age-old debates for Syracuse fans. Every year, just about every big game, a lot of fans seem to lose it when the Orange slow things down late. Come "winning time" -- under five minutes to play -- Boeheim does his legal version "Four Corners." And while the "play" has backfired numerous times, I'm actually in favor of it -- or at least the concept of it. SU has won more games slowing things down late than anyone can even count. My only complaint: When it is not working, like Saturday at 'Nova, I would like to see Boeheim abandon it and just run the normal sets under normal tempo. OR GIVE THE DAMN BALL TO BRANDON TRICHE! (Sorry for yelling.)

AP: When you have one of the best defenses in the country with some of the lankiest and athletic guards to watch the three ball, why don't you trust them? With the way Cuse was not rebounding the ball, I think Boeheim made the right call. If MCW puts his hands up that shot is either not taken or blocked. It was a lack of execution not poor planning.

JR: I hate it like Brussels sprouts. I know there are SU fans out there who think we shouldn't question Jim Boeheim's coaching decisions because he has 908 more wins than any of us do. That's true, but that doesn't make him infallible. SU doesn't have the greatest half court offense when you give them the full 35 seconds to get a bucket. So why would we cut that time by nearly two-thirds? To shave a few seconds off of the game clock? I think they need to stick with what works. The clock-killing "stall" offense in basketball is like the prevent defense in football. Great in theory, but flawed in practice.

Where does the blame lie regarding the foul trouble and lack of depth?

SK: Well, James Southerland, right? You take a guy who plays 30 minutes a night out of a lineup that's 8 guys deep on normal nights and that's going to cause havoc. As for the guys actually playing, there's no denying that Trevor Cooney's inability to make positive plays is hurting us. The Juice Online just did a breakdown on each player on the roster and how they affect play when they're in. Cooney is such a negative that we're almost better off without him at this point. Given that we only have three true guards, that's just one more reason we're putting so much pressure on everyone else, who in turn get into foul trouble.

DL: The loss of James really hurts our depth. Jerami Grant has given us some phenomenal efforts this season, but he's still a true freshman trying to feel out the college game, so I'm not shocked that he fouled out in a game like this. It would also be nice if we got DaJuan some more time. I get that Boeheim wants his best players in the rotation, but I don't think Coleman's been nearly as ineffective as Fab was as a freshman, or maybe even Rakeem at times last season. He gets out of position, and watching him cover the corner three point shots was nightmarish, but he has been pretty effective on the glass this season. Also, I hate to do the "blame the officials" thing, but Jim Burr's crew was atrocious on both sides last night. 48 total fouls in 45 minutes of basketball? Are you kidding me?

JC: No point complaining about the refs. As a player, if you see them calling a close game, be careful about contact. Plain and simple. We have some depth issues though (surprising, considering how "deep" everyone once thought this team was), and if James Southerland stays suspended, we just handed opposing teams a pretty solid blueprint on how to beat us on foul trouble alone.

MM: My own philosophy when a team is up by three and on defense late in the game? Only foul when there is less than 5 seconds to play. I think the Wildcats got the ball back with roughly 13 seconds to play, that's too much time in my opinion. SU probably should have fouled after the Wildcats got the rebound to set up the game-winner, but in that frantic action, it's tough to rely on teenagers to foul before a shot attempt.

AP: Foul trouble? The refs weren't the greatest in the world but veterans (IE Keita) have to realize this and adapt. Grant is young and will have those rough patches. Lack of depth? Bad luck that Coleman has taken so long to develop? Rak for not making the leap we all expected him to? This is a young team that had holes from day one. They're just being exposed without Southerland.

JR: Obviously it starts with James Southerland's troubles, but he's just one player. I think that the lack of development of Trevor Cooney and DaJuan Coleman will SU hurt more in the long run. We saw it firsthand on Saturday. Boeheim had to choose between a guy who looks terrified every time he shoots, and a guy who is a starter in name only and played about five minutes a game. Now he's out for a month, so who knows what sort of shape he'll be in when he gets back.