After the Syracuse Orange lost to the UConn Huskies, Head Coach Jim Boeheim made the following statement in his post-game press conference.
So it was a little surprising to me when his comments after the Orange beat Boston University focused on the team’s defense. You might pass it off as “that’s how Boeheim do,” but Frank Howard verified that Syracuse spent the majority of the week’s practice prior to the BU game working on defense. While I certainly don’t think that the Orange defense is clicking on all cylinders, I also don’t think that Boeheim’s comments should be taken to mean that an improved offense isn’t on his Christmas list.
Last week, Chris Carlson had a good piece on Syracuse.com talking about the Orange’s struggles to get easy baskets. After the UConn game, Carlson pointed out that “Syracuse is getting only 32.6 percent of its shots at the rim, a percentage that ranks 251st in the country.” Now one way to improve on that statistic is to get better defensively, to do a better job rebounding and create more turnovers. This Syracuse roster certainly has the size and athletic ability to make this kind of impact.
The issue with putting all the onus on the defense is that it ignores the fact that Syracuse has not been scoring as much the last few years. If you look at recent history, the Syracuse defense has carried the team, and with all the newcomers this year, it might be asking too much to expect the same. Look at how points per game since 2010 have trended for Syracuse:
2016: 75.7 ppg (Note this jumped up from 70 after the BU game)
The Orange have been content to play at a slower tempo, which works well when you have multiple players who can create their own opportunities at the end of the shot clock. This year’s squad is built around a number of players who are best at catch and shoot and not creating off the bounce, so I think it helps the Orange to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
According to sevenovertimes.com, the Orange are currently shooting 40.5 percent from three (22nd in the nation), 49.5 percent on two-point shots (192nd), and 66.1 percent on free throws (260th). As encouraging as the numbers are from behind the arc, Syracuse needs to improve inside the are if it is going to make noise in a difficult ACC. Last year, the magic number for ACC games was 75: when the Orange reached the 75-point mark, they were 5-0, when they allowed 75 points, they lost all three games.
One positive is the strong recent play of DaJuan Coleman and Taurean Thompson. If this duo can continue to provide effective scoring, it can help open up better looks for other players. Getting baskets in the lane can keep opponents from crowding Andrew White and Tyler Lydon on the perimeter. It can make it easier for Howard and Tyus Battle to covert on drives as that duo is shooting a collective 16-45 (35.5 percent) on 2-pt attempts.
A balanced offense can propel this Syracuse team back to where many fans think they should be come March. What areas do you see for the Orange offense to improve?