During his time as Syracuse's interim head coach, Mike Hopkins has, at least at times, managed lineups in a questionable manner. That was particularly true in two of his first three games as head coach, when, in losses to Georgetown and St. John's, he didn't use the lineup that's generally been the Orange's most effective this season as much as he probably should have.
Those problems resurfaced in SU's 64-51 loss to Miami on Saturday afternoon. The lineup — consisting of Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson, Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon — again played well. It finished the game plus-9, the best mark of any Syracuse lineup.
And it was that lineup that overcame a 7-point deficit in the second half to tie the game at 44 with just over five minutes to play. But that was when, curiously, Hopkins subbed in Dajuan Coleman for Roberson. Over the next 3 minutes 26 seconds, the Orange were outscored 16-5, allowing the Hurricanes to pull away and hand Syracuse a second straight loss to begin ACC play.
Though it's theoretically possible that Miami could've gone on a similar run with Roberson in the game, it seems unlikely that it was simply a coincidence — especially when you consider that the lineup with Roberson has been consistently better than the one with Coleman this season.
After tomorrow night's showdown with Clemson, Hopkins will no longer be managing Syracuse's lineups, as Jim Boeheim will return from his suspension when the Orange take the floor against North Carolina on Saturday.
Here are three more notable statistics and numbers trends related to SU:
Is Gbinije wearing down?
Michael Gbinije has fallen into a shooting slump of sorts over the past two weeks or so. Beginning with Syracuse's 67-46 win over Cornell on Dec. 19, he's shooting only 31.3% from the field and just 22.2% from 3.
Gbinije played 38 or more minutes in four of those five games, and he's playing an average of 37.6 minutes per game this season — the most on the team. Of course, SU doesn't really have a choice other than playing him those type of minutes, but it's still worth noting the possibility that those minutes could be beginning to catch up to him.
Now, it's more likely that this is just the result of defenses beginning to play him differently, which they have seemed to do. For instance, they're often double teaming him off of ball screens, making it especially difficult for him to create shots for himself.
Additionally, Gbinije was bound to go through a rough patch of games. That's just how the sport typically goes. But if he never regains the form he had earlier in the season, it'll be difficult not to point to the minutes he's been playing as a possible explanation.
Richardson is attacking the basket and having success
Multiple times in the Orange's losses to Miami and Pittsburgh last week, Malachi Richardson took his defender off the dribble, got into the paint and scored around the rim. He struggled at times early in the season to finish around the basket, but he's been getting much better in that area, as evidenced by the shot chart below.
Syracuse has lacked players capable of knifing into the lane and finishing — even Gbinije has been struggling with that recently. If Richardson can keep having the same success, it'll open up a slew of other opportunities for the Orange, particularly on the perimeter.
Joseph stays on a short leash
Against Miami, Kaleb Joseph was subbed into the game five different times. He stayed on the court for an average span of 1 minute 21 seconds. It's not a new trend; throughout this season, Joseph has seemed to be consistently removed from the game shortly after he entered, usually because of a mistake he's made. And he's made a lot of those mistakes; he's shooting only 20.8% this season and he's had a number of defensive lapses.
But what I wonder is whether those mistakes are a byproduct of the short leash he's on. Joseph is a player who admitted his confidence was shot last season, so it stands to reason that he might be dealing with some significant confidence issues again this season. And when he enters a game, he almost has to know that if he makes a mistake, he's likely getting yanked. Might that make him an extremely tentative player? It seems possible.
I realize this is a mostly intangible theory that probably doesn't belong in a statistics column, but again, it's just a thought. I'm also not suggesting that Joseph should be getting a longer leash; these are games the Orange need to win, and they'll need to use their best players to do so.
Joseph's struggles this season were unexpected, and perhaps this is me just grasping for an explanation. Remember, he was billed as having made serious improvements in the offseason. And by Boeheim, no less. That's not something that Boeheim would likely put out there if he didn't see it in practice, but so far, we don't have any tangible evidence of that improvement. If anything, Joseph has regressed. There has to be a reason for that.