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What does Syracuse basketball need to do to turn the corner?

Three games in six days will give the Orange ample opportunity to prove it has

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has won three straight games following the team’s road victory against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon. SU shot well, overcame foul trouble and battled on the glass to outlast the Fighting Irish in a game that marked its first of ACC play.

Saturday’s contest represented SU’s first tough test since losing two straight games to quality mid-majors in mid-December. With its four losses on its non-conference slate, the team has its work cut out for it during conference play. Syracuse’s win on the road against a quality conference opponent has the team pointed in the right direction, so we take a look at what Saturday’s win suggests we can expect from the Orange going forward:


Against Notre Dame, Syracuse shot over 40 percent from three on 29 attempts. The 29 attempts were the most by the team in a single game this season and it was just the second time that the team shot 40 percent in a game this season. The Orange are shooting just 31 percent on the season which ranks in the bottom-50 in the country. Some quick math could tell us that Syracuse would have lost nine points if the team shot at its season average against Notre Dame. The team won by ten points.

The obvious caveat to this math is that Syracuse likely wouldn’t have shot as many threes had it not been shooting so well. Also, the name of the game is to make baskets and the team that makes more baskets is going to win the game. Both of those points are valid. However, these single-game numbers point toward positive variance for the Orange and likely something that the team won’t be able to consistently rely upon to win games.

It should be noted that Syracuse is shooting 36 percent over its last three games which could suggest that the Orange have found its touch from long range. In fact, since its trip to Madison Square Garden, Syracuse has shot 35 percent from three for the season — up four percent on the season average.

Note: the line on the graph follows the moving average of the team’s season-long three-point shooting percentage

Overall, Syracuse’s shooting has been trending in a positive direction, but Saturday’s performance was still in the higher range of outcomes for this team. Coach Jim Boeheim and fans alike would agree that the team has not yet reached its potential on the offensive end, so there is reason to believe that the Orange can maintain and build upon its already-improved shooting percentages.


Syracuse turned in a stellar defensive performance against Notre Dame — especially down the stretch. The Fighting Irish scored just four points in the final 6:17 of the game thanks, in part, to tough defense by the Orange. It would be lovely to give all credit to Syracuse for clamping down defensively, but Notre Dame’s inexperience played a factor in its meltdown.

Notre Dame’s shot selection and overall decision-making down the stretch was questionable, at best. This deep, contested three-pointer came from D.J. Harvey — a 33 percent three-point shooter on the year. Worse, it came with 15 seconds on the shot clock and a wide open John Mooney in the middle of the zone.

On the very next possession, Harvey makes another poor decision by recklessly driving into the teeth of the 2-3 zone. Bourama Sidibe makes a great defensive play to draw a charge.

This play personifies what can be taken away from this game on the defensive end: credit can be given to Syracuse’s defense for stepping up and making plays down the stretch, but the team’s job was made much easier by Notre Dame’s poor decision-making and tough luck shooting the ball.

Moving forward

Starting Wednesday, Syracuse will be tested with three games over the next six days. The Orange will play host to Clemson and Georgia Tech before traveling down to Durham to take on Duke. The team will need to continue to shoot the ball well in order to build on its current three-game winning streak. The offensive out-burst from Elijah Hughes and a healthier, more confident Frank Howard are positive signs, as is the improving three-point shooting percentage of the team. Syracuse is showing that it may be starting to turn the corner and the team will have the opportunity to prove so the next week.