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Syracuse Basketball: How Tyler Roberson Can Succeed

You have likely heard Jim Boeheim's comments on Tyler Roberson by now. How can the Orange maximize his effectiveness, and what do they do if he continues to struggle?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When the Syracuse Orange basketball team has a week off in between games, fans and commentators alike look for anything they can to talk about. This time the topic du jour (or I guess de la semaine if you want to get technical) is head coach Jim Boeheim's comments on Tyler Roberson after Saturday's home loss to Pittsburgh.

For those who have been living under a rock or a mountain of snow, here's what Boeheim said about Roberson, via Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com:

If I had anyone else he wouldn't play a minute...If Tyler Roberson is going to play he has to give us points and rebounds. They aren't guarding him. He's dribbling sideways. He can go at the basket. He's getting the same opportunities Tyler Lydon is getting. He can't get a point? You can't have a junior be in the program and play all the time, and when you get to your junior year, he can't score. You can't win. You can't win that way.

These are some harsh comments to be sure. But this is nothing new for Boeheim. Just last year, when talking about then-freshman Chris McCullough, Boeheim said "We'd like to get him to play bad. That would be a step up from where we are."

It isn't a fluke Boeheim is over 900 wins (unless you ask the NCAA) and is a Hall of Famer; He knows what he's doing. Clearly he thinks this is the best way to motivate his player.

Roberson is a lot like Rakeem Christmas before him in that he lacks that "The-Replacements-get-me-the-ball" intensity on the court. If Roberson plays with that edge, he can dominate a game.

One thing is for sure though: the Orange need Roberson to contribute if they want to make any noise in postseason play this year. So how can they maximize his talents? How can they get him back to the man among boys that almost single-handedly destroyed Cameron Indoor Stadium?

Besides pulling down 20 rebounds, the exclamation point of Roberson's night in Durham was that filthy one-handed tomahawk he threw down on a lob from Mike Gbinije. It would, of course, be ideal if Boeheim could draw up plays to get Roberson a wide-open alley-oop all the time. But that's just not realistic. There are, however, some adjustments to the offense that could be made to maximize Roberson's effectiveness on that end.

Let's first take a look at a few relevant stats for Roberson. According to hoop-math.com (which has Roberson listed as "Tyler Robinson," because of course it does) Roberson shoots 65 percent on shots at the rim. That would make sense, considering he is best on putbacks and when he can get to the rim in one dribble with a running start.

Conversely, Roberson shoots just 25.4 percent on two-point jump shots. Again, this is apparent just by watching Roberson play; He's at his best around the rim.

So one way Syracuse can get the most out of Roberson on offense is to limit the amount of times it uses Roberson to set ball screens. When Roberson (or Dajuan Coleman) sets the ball screen, the two defenders will just blitz the ball-handler, leaving the screener alone at the top of the key.

This is smart, because they know both Roberson and Coleman are not threats to do anything with the ball when they catch it there. How many times have you seen one of those two with the ball at the top of the key, afraid to dribble and looking for a ball-handler to come bail them out? It stalls the offense.

In addition, if Roberson is setting the screen and away from the basket, he's completely out of the play and has no chance at an offensive rebound should a shot go up. If Roberson is left to just roam the baseline, he can end up with lobs like that one against Duke because the defense actually has to account for the screener (Tyler Lydon or Malachi Richardson) if he can do something with the ball once he catches it.

In addition, the Orange could set a second screen along the baseline during the ball screen action which could free Roberson underneath or allow him to run and catch the ball on the opposite wing and either attack the basket or set up a teammate on the wing.

Even if the Orange execute perfectly, sometimes it isn't going to work out. If Boeheim is looking for more of an offensive punch, he can sub Frank Howard in for Roberson. With a lineup of Howard, Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Richardson and Lydon, the Orange have four shooters surrounding a pass-first point guard who is always looking to set up his teammates.

With that lineup, the Orange could admittedly suffer on the boards against a team that rebounds aggressively. However, having Gbinije up front could mitigate that a bit, and if all five guys crash the glass, they should be able to survive and create matchup problems on the offensive end.

Roberson isn't going to find a polished offensive game overnight. He has a limited skill set. But if Boeheim puts him in a position where he can do what he's best at, Roberson can have a profound effect on the game and push Syracuse to the next level.