Welcome to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! Maybe you don't want to talk about the Orange's loss to Michigan. Or maybe you do? No, it wasn't the easiest thing to witness, but instead of wallowing in what was a tough defeat, we're choosing to move on -- by discussing it one final time.
As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to the basketball TNIAAM wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-court, the ACC and more. Join us below:
Describe your feelings at the end of that Michigan game...
Brian Tahmosh: Pretty pleased, actually. Syracuse lost this game because of one thing ... inexperience. And you know what? That's the one thing that I'm positive will be improved by March. I can't guarantee the shooting or the defense will be better, but they will be more battle tested as the year goes on. I'm not gonna worry about individual wins and losses right now because this team is good enough to make the tournament in the long run. They proved they have the talent to play with the big boys, now they just need to get more experience.
Ben Burrows: Mixed. Didn’t expect SU to win, but it’s tough to watch a team get multiple opportunities in a go-ahead, final possession situation and turn the ball over each time. SU did a lot of good things right but Michigan was just a better team.
Matt Constas: Very disappointed. However, I tried to look at the positives. I feel like this team grew a lot and also showed their true colors. The effort was incredible, and it never went away over the course of the game. Cooney kept shooting, McCullough played his best after getting four fouls. It was a hard fought game, but not being able to get a good look with three chances to tie/win at the end was very disappointing to say the least.
Michael Burke: Bummed out. Like, legitimately bummed out. I’m happy with how Syracuse played and I definitely think Tuesday’s game gives us plenty of reason to feel optimistic. But, man, I wanted that win.
Matt McClusky: Pleasantly surprised. I expected Syracuse to compete, but I really didn't think the Orange would have a legit shot at the end to win the game. That went double after Rakeem Christmas' two fouls in the first couple of minutes! The fact SU was able to stick around against a decent team in a tough environment shows a lot.
Dan Lyons: Disappointment, because Syracuse had so many opportunities to win the game and add a nice 'W' to the resume, but ultimately, I was pleased with how the team rose to the occasion overall, and on a larger scale, I think it was SU's best performance of the season. Had Syracuse played poorly, it would have been one thing, but we saw the best of what this team can be at moments, and as we progress, I think we'll see more of that Syracuse team throughout the season.
Jared Smith: Slight disappointment, but happy it was a good college basketball game the Orange competed in. SU played as well as they could in that seven-minute span in the second half–which is great–but then fumbled the game away with freshmen-like turnovers. Stinks, but it's going to happen with this team.
John Cassillo: Disappointment and some quick anger, followed by perspective. Look, if a more experienced team was out there, Syracuse probably would've won -- and that kills you. But since this team isn't that experienced, and we can't just magically make them more so, it is what it is. I thought this would be a loss they'd learn from prior to the game. I stand by that now.
Syracuse was finally able to hit threes, and of course, they lose. One-time thing, or sign of what's to come?
BT: This team is never going to be a good three-point shooting team. Cooney is going to have some great games and some awful games. Gbinije is at best mediocre (and he hasn't been close to his best all year) and BJ Johnson is a ghost. The one encouraging thing is Joseph looked confident shooting threes. If he can improve that area, that can at least make the Orange a mediocre shooting team.
BB: I’m going to say it’s not a sign of things to come, but it’s going to be better than what it has been. It’s almost impossible for SU to continue to shoot that poorly from 3. The percentage could have been even better if you traded out a fading Cooney once or twice for a better opportunity on a screen or pin.
MC: I hope it isn’t a one-time thing, but based on last season and how this season has started I can’t make any guarantees. Players looked very confident. Joseph hit his first two, Cooney led the Orange comeback efforts with his second half barrage from deep and looks to have come out of his shell. This doesn’t erase the loss and the horrendous shooting they have displayed in the other six games. I will believe that their shooting is improving when I can see them put a string of games together of consistent makes.
MB: I’d say probably somewhere in between. Trevor Cooney won’t go 4-of-7 from three in the second half every night, but the Orange also won’t shoot as poorly as they shot against Holy Cross on Friday, when they went 0-for-14 from deep.
MM: I don't know if I would classify 6-for-17 as anything special, but obviously it's a (sad) improvement from what we've seen this season. I like that Kaleb Joseph was taking some of those deep shots, and making them is an added bonus. Still, I wouldn't expect that to be a trend and Cooney's misses missed by a mile. In other words: Syracuse will occasionally hit five or six threes as a team in a game here or there.
DL: I would think that last night's performance is closer to what we'll see throughout the season. Its not like we were hitting an unsustainable number of threes, and its not too much to ask Trevor Cooney to hit 2-3 a night and for the team to make around 33-35% at minimum. If SU can do that, this team will be a decent offensive squad.
JS: I am of the mind set that because one thing happens now doesn't mean its going to happen again. You just need to take it one game at a time, and hope Trevor Cooney got the mental boost he needed.
JC: Jury's still out, though at least they showed themselves they COULD hit shots -- which could end up being the most important thing here, especially for Trevor Cooney. The mental game is just as important as the physical one right now.
Do you feel better or worse about St. John's now that the Orange are coming off that loss?
BT: No real change. Syracuse is a better team than St. John's and that will be clear in that game. The only way my opinion would have changed is if SU got its doors blown off last night. This team is what we thought they were (thanks Denny Green).
BB: Better. Guys, Michigan is ranked 17th in the country. SU shouldn’t have won that game. The Orange played really well and shot 50 (!) percent from the field. St. John’s is a strong opponent, but there is a lot to be happy about with SU right now even if you don’t like an outcome most of us expected.
MC: I think it will be a competitive game regardless of what the outcome of the Michigan game was. Two good coaches, a rivalry renewed and St. John’s has some experienced/talented players. They aren’t too efficient offensively so that plays into Syracuse’s favor. Missed shots and turnovers will be a plenty, so the Orange will be able to get into that quick offense they have been featuring thus far.
MB: Better. Definitely better. Even in a loss to Michigan, Syracuse showed me a lot. This team has guts. They don’t quit (they were down 10 with seven minutes left) and, if they limit their mistakes, they can beat most teams.
MM: Syracuse can take an awful lot of good and bad from Tuesday night, and I firmly expect Boeheim and company to do just that. Compare this team's overall play from New York City to right now. It's not major improvement, but things are getting better. St. John's is actually very sneaky good, but it's a team that relies on inside play and should be a perfect zone victim. This should be another measuring-stick game for the Orange and this one should go the right way.
DL: Better. St. John's has had moments—a win over Minnesota looks good—but they've struggled at times. From the little I saw, they didn't exactly run Niagara off the court last night. I think that SU's length will really disrupt the Johnnies, and the Orange will be looking to make up for the disappointing loss in Ann Arbor.
JS: A bit better. Let's be frank, though, this team can beat a lot of good teams and lose to a lot of average teams if it turns the ball over 19 times.
JC: Better, because I honestly wasn't sure what we'd see from Syracuse against a very good Michigan team beforehand. Now I know, and can take those expectations and apply them to a lesser St. John's squad. This team has the ability to beat anyone with talent -- they just need to find the ability to execute.
Best thing about the Michigan game? We can be positive here, right?
BT: They turned the ball over 19 times, only forced 7 turnovers, gave up 11 made 3-pointers, gifted away two good chances to take the lead at the end, AND STILL had a shot at the end of regulation on the road for the tie. If they can shoot 50% from the field and 35% from three this year, they're gonna win a lot of games. The silly turnovers should go down as the season goes on, and the defense should improve as well. It's only going to get better from here.
BB: Um, the team actually shot well? 50 percent is really good and 35 percent from 3 is a strong performance. Defense looked suspect at times, but if a few of those 3s with two or three seconds on the shot clock don’t go down it’s a very different game. And sure, there were a ton of turnovers. But this team is going to have those games, especially when it doesn’t have a true secondary ball-handler behind Joseph.
MC: Learning from mistakes and gaining confidence. I think part of the problem at the end of last year was the inability to handle losing and fight through struggles. Despite last night’s loss, there was a lot of fight in this team and a lot of things to learn from. Now ball security at the end of the games can be even more of a teaching point then it already was, and I hope the positives and negatives both can help this team learn a lot while the season is still very young.
MB: I’ll go back to what I just touched on: the fact that the Orange found themselves in a tie game in the final minute after trailing by 10 points, on the road, with seven minutes left. That took heart. For an inexperienced team like this one, I was impressed. Because, I’ll be honest, I thought the game was over long before it actually was.
MM: I like Christmas' staying in the game and being a factor even with the foul trouble, Chris McCullough's second-half effort and the zone getting out on the Wolverines' shooters. Yes, the turnovers were horrible and, yes, Michigan probably could have won that game by double figures had it hit some open shots. But let's give credit to the zone and to how Syracuse really had a chance to steal a game no one thought it could. (It's like I've morphed into Mr. Positive over here.)
DL: The return of some sort of shooting stroke, for sure. I think Trevor Cooney's been doing a lot well this year, but without his three point shot, he isn't a complete player. He brought that last night, and Syracuse needed it to keep pace with all of the shooters that Michigan runs out there. I also think that the zone looks to be rounding into midseason form. Michigan made a bunch of threes, but they also took a ton. I'll take 11-of-33 from a team with the shooters that Michigan has, as well as the unimpressive 1.04 points per shot that the Wolverines posted. What can't happen is SU getting out-shot by 17 FGAs on a regular basis, but I don't think Syracuse is going to be posting 30% turnover rates very often.
JS: That seven-minute span when Cooney was knocking down 3s, McCullough was playing tough inside and Michael Gbinije was being aggressive to the hoop is what SU needs to happen for 30 minutes to win a game. Hopefully, they learned something.
JC: I mentioned earlier, but the team getting a bit of its shooting stroke back. Again, a lot of this is mental -- especially for Cooney -- so the more shots that go down, the more confident they can all be going forward. Young shooters need to make baskets to get better, so we're getting closer to what this team will round into.
Are you worried about the minutes both freshman starters (McCullough and Joseph) are getting right now?
BT: No. These kids are 18 years old. They could probably play 5 games in a row if they had to. I also love how Boeheim is letting them play through their struggles - McCullough went from being a nonfactor in the first half to one of the go-to guys down the stretch. Also, as discussed on Monday, McCullough is gone at the end of this season, so let's get every last minute out of him before he leaves. The minutes should go down against the lesser teams on the schedule, but these are the games you need to play your best guys in.
BB: Yes. I’m always going to be concerned when guys are getting 40 or more minutes per game at this point in the season. That shouldn’t happen. In a game like this I don’t really mind seeing guys getting a lot of burn in a short rotation since it almost had a playoff feel, but those games add up and at the end of the season it hurts players. There shouldn’t be a trend of guys getting 39 or 40, especially at this point in the season. Is getting experience really a reason to burn a guy out against a mid major in November like we see in some of these other games?
MC: This is nothing new for a Boeheim team, so it has not really crossed my mind. A few players will get a lot of minutes, and since they only play around twice a week I feel Boeheim has always been comfortable giving players a lot of minutes since they can rest. I’m not worried, the more time they get means more experience gained.
MB: No, not yet. If they get these kind of minutes in ACC play, when the Orange are playing tough games three times per week, I might be more concerned. But, for now, I’m cool with it. After the St. John’s game on Saturday, Syracuse has eight days off before playing Louisiana Tech on the 14th. Joseph and McCullough will have plenty of time to rest.
MM: Not in the least. Both of the frosh expected to not only start this season, but to be key contributors. So they knew going in they would be logging 35-plus minutes a game. Joseph's minutes running point could eventually wear him down (hello, Tyler Ennis), but I don't think it's something to concern ourselves with right now. Besides, like the whole Trevor Cooney debate, who else do you play at point that you trust right now? Not many options.
DL: Maybe a bit, but it shouldn't be too much of a shock to the system for them. Guys in high school and on the AAU circuit probably as much if not more than college players. They don't make a jump from ~40 games to 82+ games like players going from college to the NBA, I don't think the adjustment is as big, aside from the obvious step up in talent. They'll be fine.
JS: No. These are 18- to 19-year-old kids, who played a crap ton of prep and AAU games during there lives. They will be fine.
JC: I DID ask the question here, so obviously a bit of a spoiler. I'm fine with high minutes, but 79 combined for those two seems like a lot, especially at this juncture. Playing them 35 apiece is fine. But let's not go full-game already, please. It may not appear to take its toll now, but it will later.