In year five since its formation, Boeheim’s Army looked to have its best team yet.
The roster was loaded with NBA experience, three-point shooters and a good mix of veterans and new faces. This was as much the peak of what the team of (mostly) Syracuse Orange men’s basketball alums have been trying to build, as it was a sign of what it could be in the future. Before the event started, I’d said this year felt different, in a good way.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Boeheim’s Army fell in the Super 16 to Team Brotherly Love, 84-72 on Sunday. Things didn’t look pretty in the process. You could’ve potentially said the same about the two previous games. Despite what may have been the best team in the entire field, Boeheim’s Army struggled to be the best team on the court at quite a few junctures these past three games.
The result’s a disappointing one, and it begs the question: What now? Well, there are a few different pieces to the response.
This is the impact of @thetournament--— Matt Hauswirth (@matthaus_CNY) July 29, 2019
Although he only spent one season playing at Syracuse, @AndrewWhite03 was able to expand on his experience through playing for @BoeheimsArmy, a decision he's thankful he made.
"It's something I'll take with me for life."@CNYCentral pic.twitter.com/aaSkXoz3h4
This team, like all of the alumni teams in The Basketball Tournament, is comprised largely of players from a certain school. That’s enough of a link for most squads and fans, sure. But as we know, Syracuse is a different animal, with an element of “family” that’s unique and at the center of what the program’s all about. And as important as that is for fans being engaged around the team and excited to root them on, it may not be what’s required to put the best team in the field.
Orange basketball should continue to be the main reason players are brought onboard, but simply going to the same school doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best suited to play together. I don’t have a perfect answer here because literally any player in the world could be available and/or recruited. But perhaps the new draw needs to be: Win $2 million and play with a few headlining Syracuse grads. Then the rest of the roster is comprised of a group of guys that want to win some money and get themselves scouted.
Maybe that ruins the whole draw of this thing. But is the draw of this thing the same if Syracuse players aren’t best situated to win it?
Can’t win on zone alone
Jim Boeheim himself said you can’t win an event like TBT by sticking exclusively with the zone, and that seemed to prove itself true over the weekend. Every Syracuse player on the roster knows the zone, but to varying degrees. And all of those zones looked at least a little different. And all of those players have also been in various defensive systems since their time at SU.
With Boeheim’s actual teams, the zone doesn’t just work because it’s a zone. It works because it’s HIS zone, and the players are practicing it night and day for months. It’s a great zone because of the players in it, and you can’t just manufacture that chemistry, athleticism or ability it takes to succeed together.
Having the zone be an option among many to suit certain situations is not only what makes the better with former Syracuse players, but it also makes it more feasible to bring outside players aboard (see Jordan Crawford’s experience this year being slotted into the zone).
The @Cuse_MBB family extends all generations. Great to see the fans AND current players here to support the Syracuse alumni of @BoeheimsArmy. This is what #TBT is all about. #TBT2019 | #TBTFAN pic.twitter.com/pFjaLU2c4d— TBT (@thetournament) July 28, 2019
There are a lot of positives to having veterans on the roster, but ultimately, the younger, faster and more modern teams are going to have an advantage in TBT. That’s not to discredit the importance of players like Hakim Warrick and Eric Devendorf to the quality of the team AND the fan element of this whole event. But having the roster focused primarily on the younger players could benefit the other points above — and winning, obviously.
This year showed what the future of Boeheim’s Army could look like in part. Embracing that and continuing to lean further on young, quick shooters is probably the best way forward for this roster given the way the foreign and college ranks have shifted to mimic the NBA.
These are more general ideas that sort of hit reset on the whole concept. But perhaps there are smaller tweaks that can solve the team’s problems in both the short- and long-term? Share your own ideas on that front below.