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Syracuse Basketball: Which Player Do You Trust in Crunch Time?

Which player do you trust with the game on the line?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

During Sunday night's contest at Virginia, the Syracuse Orange made some critical plays down the stretch but ultimately fell short. It wasn't that Syracuse was bad offensively in crunch time in this contest, the defensive lapses hurt the Orange.

Syracuse actually made plays on the offensive end that they failed to do at Pittsburgh and Miami, so that got us thinking, which player do you want to take the shot (or free throws) when it matters most? Here are three scenarios:

Down two on the road with possession -- 10 seconds left facing a superior opponent

There's a reason I'm not a coach, but I believe if you're facing a better team you try to steal a game and go for the win by taking a three. Here's who I think should take the final shot ranked in order.

1. Michael Gbinije: Gbinije is the team's best player -- you want the best chance on the final possession. That doesn't mean he will always come through but he gives you the best opportunity to win the game. You always want your best player taking the final shot.

2. Malachi Richardson: Richardson has shown the ability to rise to the occasion in crunch time. He hit the tough three in the corner against Clemson with 1:02 left in the game and also the clutch three against Virginia with 28 seconds left to cut the game to three.

3. Trevor Cooney: Cooney has hit some big shots at key points in games (see three made with 22 seconds left against Clemson in OT to cut the lead to two and three against Virginia with 3:47 to play) but I still like Gbinije and Richardson to take the shot before Cooney, however having Cooney -- a fifth-year senior who has made big plays in his career -- is a great third option

Down two with possession facing an inferior opponent -- 10 seconds left

Here you'd like to take your chances in overtime against an inferior opponent as long as your guys aren't in foul trouble. Who takes the shot?

1. Michael Gbinije: I like Gbinije attacking the rim going downhill -- he's been so effective driving to the basket with a full head of steam. I also like a high ball screen with him and Roberson with shooters on each wing.

2. Malachi Richardson: Should Gbinije be double-teamed or forced to get rid of the ball, I like Richardson to drive as he's shown an ability to get to the rim and either finish or draw contact.

3. Trevor Cooney: Nothing different in the order, but I like Cooney taking a three as the third option versus him trying to drive and make something happen. Cooney has gotten into trouble at times when he penetrates by either taking a tough two or turning the ball over.

Up one with possession under 10 seconds to play

Who shoots the one-and-one or double bonus?

1. Trevor Cooney: Oddly, I trust Cooney in this situation more than any other player. He shoots the highest percentage, of anyone getting consistent playing time, at 78 percent. By all accounts, he's Syracuse's best free throw shooter.

2. Michael Gbinije: I simply don't trust Gbinije in this situation as much as Cooney. It's peculiar to not want to have the best player on the line when it matters most but I just don't see it. He shoots a poor 65.7 percent from the line -- I'd rather see Cooney take the free throws.

3. Malachi Richardson: I like Richardson as the third option here. Richardson is a fair free throw shooter but has missed in this situation when up two at the line against Clemson. He made the first but missed the second and we all know what happened after that. He also made the first but missed the second against Duke in the game's closing seconds.


Obviously there is more to what goes on in a game that just the stated scenarios. Is Gbinije being hounded by a guard apropos of Angel Rodriguez with Malachi Richardson having a great game? Maybe Richardson becomes the go-to-guy in that case. Is Trevor Cooney having a stellar performance against North Carolina with Gbinije struggling? Maybe you go to Cooney in that game (although I would still favor Gbinije taking the last shot, even if he's 0-20).

This is just my take, and I'm sure the coaching staff would disagree with some of this but what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.