Syracuse played only once this past week, beating Cornell 67-46 on Saturday. But with that game in the books, the Orange are now more than one-third of the way through their regular season, and statistics are certainly not scarce.
Today, we discuss Trevor Cooney's value to the Orange, why Syracuse should stop using certain lineup combinations and how SU has struggled to capitalize on steals. Let's dive right in.
Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Roberson can't be on the floor together
If there's one thing that's puzzled me this season above all else, it's been Syracuse's insistence on starting both Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Roberson. Time and again, that lineup just hasn't worked, and it typically only takes a few minutes before Coleman gets subbed out for Tyler Lydon.
On the season, lineups with both Coleman and Roberson on the court are minus-20. Meanwhile, lineups featuring just one of those players and Lydon in the frontcourt are plus-83.
Individually, Coleman and Roberson are also each more effective offensively when not playing alongside the other. Coleman is shooting just 38.1% when he's on the court with Roberson, compared to 53.3% when he's paired with Lydon in the frontcourt. Roberson, meanwhile, is shooting 41.7% when he's playing next to Coleman and 54.4% when it's him and Lydon in the frontcourt.
When Coleman and Roberson play together, it's awful for the Orange's spacing, since neither player is much of a threat outside of the paint. That takes away driving lanes, which allows defenders to stay close to SU's 3-point threats on the perimeter, since they don't need to worry about helping in the already-clogged paint. And with so much going on inside and around the paint, it leaves Coleman and Roberson without much room to operate themselves.
Save for when Syracuse plays especially big teams, Coleman and Roberson just shouldn't see the court at the same time. There might be some apprehension about how coming off the bench will affect Coleman's confidence, but that shouldn't outweigh the evidence that starting him alongside Roberson is seriously hurting the Orange.
Even as he's struggled, Cooney has been much better than his replacements
I've been a relatively vocal critic of Trevor Cooney this season, particularly when it has come to his shot selection and his tendency to take far too many 3s than he should. Take a look at his short chart, and you'll see how that criticism might be warranted:
Obviously, that's pretty ugly. But even if Cooney continues to have such issues shooting the ball, it won't mean that the Orange should bench him. They can't afford to. Because while it might seem like an attractive option to give Kaleb Joseph or Franklin Howard more minutes, they can't provide what Cooney provides.
For starters, Cooney is arguably SU's best defender. According to Shot Analytics, opposing offenses are shooting just 25% from the left wing 3-point area and 17% from the left elbow, two areas that Cooney has been largely responsible for defending this season.
Additionally, opposing defenses still seem to view Cooney as a legitimate threat from beyond the arc. They've generally made it a point to keep a defender glued to him, which has been a benefit to SU's spacing and thus its offense as a whole.
Through 11 games, Syracuse is shooting 42.7% from the field and 37.5% from 3 when Cooney is in the game. Those numbers aren't quite through the roof, but they're significantly better than when he's on the bench. In those scenarios, Syracuse is shooting just 28.9% from the field and a meager 22.2% from beyond the arc.
This doesn't mean Cooney shouldn't make an effort to take smarter shots. But it should put to rest any talk that the Orange would be better with him on the bench; clearly, that isn't the case.
Syracuse is exceptional at coming away with steals, but will they start capitalizing more frequently?
Syracuse has been one of the best defenses in the country when it comes to getting steals. Per kenpom.com, the Orange are coming away with steals on 13.2% of possessions, the fifth-best clip in the country. SU has four players — Cooney, Lydon, Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson — who are getting steals on at least 2.5% of possessions.
However, Syracuse hasn't been great at capitalizing on those steals. According to Hoop-Math, the Orange are effectively shooting 55.9% within the 10 seconds following a steal. That's a solid shooting percentage in itself, but since field goal attempts following steals tend to be particularly high-percentage shots, effectively shooting 55.9% becomes much less impressive.
A lot of these troubles fall on the shoulders of Cooney and Richardson, who are effectively shooting just 34.4% and 28.3% in transition, respectively. If those two players can figure out how to finish in transition, Syracuse will be able to better take advantage of the steals it comes up with.