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A big part of Syracuse’s problems: The defense lags behind recent Orange editions

It’s not the only problem, but it is one.

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NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Given the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s recent stretch of losses (four of the last five), it’s reasonable to wonder what’s been going wrong. The offense’s cold streak from three hasn’t helped. But a lot of the problems have come on the defensive end — a departure from most seasons of late.

The Athletic’s Matthew Gutierrez dove into some of those issues, showing where the zone struggling and where it specifically seemed poorly positioned against Florida State this past Saturday. Though they’re not the only issue, guard play in the zone has been a glaring issue compared to seasons’ past, and it’s put extra emphasis on defending threes while also forcing interior defenders to do more (part of why we’ve seen so much foul trouble).

Digging in deeper on the full season with Synergy Sports, we can look at exactly which situations Syracuse has had trouble with all year. Up front, it winds up that while Syracuse’s zone remains pretty serviceable overall (135th per KenPom is a failure for us, but not bad for most programs), it’s miserable in a handful of scenarios. Those, for your reference:

  • Man defense — SU’s in the bottom 2% in the country here
  • Post-up — bottom 11%
  • Press defense — bottom 15%
  • Isolation — bottom 27%

They’re also pretty bad against pick-and-rolls and medium-range jumpers. As a group, they’re pretty average in most defensive scenarios. The team excels against cuts, late in the shot clock and against offensive rebounds.

On an individual level though, just two regular rotation players perform above the 50th percentile on defense: Marek Dolezaj (77%) and Quincy Guerrier (51%). Guards Buddy Boeheim (25%) and Joe Girard (35%) are the lowest on the list — a big part of where this year’s team differs from last year’s. Also problematic is that SU’s top two defenders (three of top four with Bourama Sidibe at 43%) are seemingly always in foul trouble.

Tweaks can be made for some things, but it’s also hard to hide both guards in this zone. Man-to-man isn’t the answer either, based on the numbers above. But it does seem like opponents have figured out how to attack this zone — and especially SU’s starting guards — well in recent weeks.

Film breakdown: What has gone wrong with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone (The Athletic)

“We’ve traditionally been able to help better than we are helping,” Boeheim said.“We are not getting the defensive play we need there. Most of it is physicality, size and strength, 240-250 (pounds) against 180 and 200. So that’s it. We try to help more with the forwards in those situations...”

Does Syracuse’s lack of a bench automatically lead to lack of success? Not necessarily (

There have been injuries to Jalen Carey, who began the season as the starting point guard but appeared in just two games before undergoing surgery on his thumb. Robert Braswell, a reserve forward, is gone for the season with shin soreness. And reserves Jesse Edwards, Brycen Goodine and Howard Washington have missed a game or two because of injury. As a result, Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, Marek Dolezaj and Joe Girard are all averaging more than 32 minutes per game.

Trina Catterson continues 73-year-old tradition as Orange Girl (Daily Orange)

Catterson’s mother, Kathy, was a twirler growing up and went on to coach it. Twirling is a sport that combines dance, artistic expression and agility while manipulating a baton, according to the World Baton Twirling Federation. Growing up in Queens, Catterson first got involved with competitive twirling at the age of 4, but was preparing even before that.

At Pink Game, Tiana Mangakahia’s inspiring story shines through (Daily Orange)

“Syracuse is my second home now,” Mangakahia said at halftime near midcourt. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it through without everyone’s support, especially from my teammates, coaches, athletic department. Just thank you so much.”

ACC joins movement that supports one-time transfer without penalty (The State)

“During the league’s annual winter meetings (February 12-14), the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student-athletes, regardless of sport,” Monday’s statement read. “As a conference, we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally.”

The promise of Dior Johnson, Syracuse’s best recruit since Carmelo Anthony (The Athletic)

Marquette invites Lawrence Moten to honor Markus Howard for Big East scoring record (

Dasia Pressley leads SU after hernia surgery (Daily Orange)

Former Syracuse football quarterback Mo Hasan will transfer to USC (