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What works and what doesn't for the Syracuse offense

It's time to score the ball so how will the Orange do it?

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Time and time again we’ve heard about the Syracuse Orange’s struggles on offense, but what has really helped this team win 13 games, and what has led them to six losses? Sure making open shots has a large part in this team’s success, but there is so much more to what truly helps the talent on this team succeed/struggle to score the ball.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Defense alone won't be enough to get the Orange to March.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The defense shows up on a consistent basis as the length and size on this roster continues to dominate opponents. Syracuse has relied on their defense to keep them in games, which it has, but their offense is going to need to find its identity for this late push towards March.

What works

Every team that faces the Orange knows that they lack many perimeter threats, so teams have packed the paint in order to make Syracuse beat them from deep. While the open shots seem to not help the Orange’s struggling shooters, it does allow for penetration, something the Orange have the talent to expose.

While Frank Howard and Tyus Battle have shown some improvement with their shooting ability, the two backcourt mates are much more effective when they are attacking the paint. Their ability to puncture the lane opens up easy shots around the rim for themselves, and also allows for players on the perimeter to have second penetration opportunities.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Attacking the paint has helped the Orange score.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange rely on heavy scoring from their “big three” of Battle, Howard, and Oshae Brissett—50.3 points per game to be exact—so finding them easy scoring opportunities will help their half court offense open up. A great way to find easy shots is to run in transition and look to attack the rim; all three players are at least relatively athletic and have the ability to score around the rim, so pushing the ball off of opponent’s misses may be a good way to help this struggling Syracuse offense find some success.

The Orange won’t be a dominant offensive team at any point this year, but they don’t need to be. As long as their defense continues to show up and dominate they’ll just need to fix some of the problems they have had this year. They have the ability to get out in transition and go on a little run, but they will need to find some more half court offense if they want to take that next step.

What doesn’t work

Despite all the flashes of success you read above, the Orange really do have a serious problem, and that is scoring the ball in the half court. Teams have quickly started to realize that with their lack of shooting, the Orange can be easily contained on the offensive end if they turn them into a jump shooting team.

While the Orange have sometimes been able to attack the sagged-off looks defenses have shown them, they still struggle to attack it in the half court because of their lack of shooting. With limited shooters on the roster, the “big three” are left forcing up shots around the rim over 2-3 taller defenders, or they are stuck taking a deep contested three as the shot clock dwindles down.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
The Orange need some more scoring from their big men.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This lack of shooting makes it easy for defenses to key in on Syracuse’s dribble penetration, and leave them hoping a few shots fall when they really need them. The fact that the Orange rely on 50.3 out of the 70 points a game they average from their big three makes it hard for them to succeed when one or two of them have a bad game.

Besides Brissett’s production, the lack of scoring from their front court really hurts the Orange when they need to stop a scoring slump. The inability to score from the post makes them rely on the long range shot which we know is not one of Syracuse’s strengths. The Orange need to get a little more scoring out of their front court if they want to pull off the needed upsets that they will encounter in the coming weeks.

The offense will be a work in progress all season long, but this team may be able to find themselves in the big dance if they fix a few of the problems they have shown. The lack of shooting won’t be an easy one, but this team will have an easier time scoring the ball if they attack the rim off of misses more than they have in the past.

What are your thoughts on getting a bit more offense from this Orange group?