Before the start of the 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange basketball season, Jim Boeheim spoke in-depth about implementing a new strategy. Coming off a deplorable shooting year in 2014-2015 (30.1 percent from three), Boeheim said candidly he had to change his approach from a Rakeem Christmas-oriented offense to a three point-oriented offense.
"We want to have at least three shooters in the game, which we haven't had in a long time. I'm not sure we've ever had three guys that are capable of shooting 40 percent. I'm thinking 35 to 40 percent with these guys,"
In fact, all four of Syracuse's shooters shot over 35 percent for last year's Final Four squad. In retrospect, Syracuse went from shooting 16.61 threes per game in 2014-2015 to 23.7 in 2015-2016, a big chasm for any team year-to-year, and still found success.
In a recent exchange with Brent Axe, Boeheim alluded to his approach for next year's team. Specifically, the biggest question mark...the backcourt.
"Johnny can shoot it. I think Frank is getting better shooting the ball. I think Tyus is getting better. I think there's no question athletically we hope to get up and down the court a little bit better. With a shot-blocker in the middle we think we can pressure a little more and get some fast-break baskets. Our forwards can run. Both Tylers and Matt Moyer, they can run. I'd hope that would give us the opportunity to run a little more."
Just in Boeheim's parlance we're able to see his genius. The great ones adapt to what they have and change their approach based on the team's and players' strengths. Not everyone sees that because the 'Heimer always play a 2-3 zone. But the dichotomy of adapting to his team on offense and refusing to play anything but 2-3 on the defensive end is the reason Boeheim has won almost
1,000 900 games.
Going into next season, Syracuse's backcourt will be called into question much like it was before the start of the 2013-2014 season. Tyus Battle and John Gillon will be playing for the first time on The Hill. What's more, Frank Howard played in a reserve role last season and will be expected to take a big step forward. It's not that these guys can't have success -- they certainly can -- it just hasn't been proven yet.
If Boeheim stays true to his word, which I believe he will, look for Syracuse to be overaggressive in terms of its rotation and trapping out of the 2-3. It can afford to take chances with a safety net in Paschal Chukwu at center (think Fab Melo, minus the suspension). This will force teams to play up tempo and will likely lead to more turnovers and fast break opportunities. Syracuse will have tremendous length along the back line of the zone (also, the sky is blue, Jim Boeheim picks his nose and one legged ducks swim in a circle). I digress, but the length will disrupt passing lanes, block shots and lead to run outs, more so than years prior.
Syracuse has hovered around 65 possessions per game over the last six seasons. It could very well average over 70 possessions per game for this first time since the 2009-2010 season, arguably the best Syracuse team in the last 20 years. Read into that whatever you like.