And that’s exactly why I was so nervous with North Carolina. They were a much better team than their record, and we faced them at their healthiest all season. And they were still without Armando Bacot for most of the game. It obviously didn’t matter, as the Tar Heels manhandled the Orange, 92-79.
After a crushing defeat on the glass (39-29) and from the perimeter (UNC hit 11-for-26, the Syracuse Orange a mere 6-for-24), we turn our sights to the Boston College Eagles. The Eagles come limping into the matchup with the Orange after a suffering a last second let down to Notre Dame.
Let’s take a look at the five keys to the game and what to watch for.
Lately it seems like the answer to that question is: rarely. But if we’re being honest, it’s not just lately that has been the problem. The stark reality for this year’s Syracuse basketball team is that they’re a decent three-point shooting team at best, and flat out awful at their worst.
After the UNC game, the Orange are now 106th in the country in defending the three-point line. They’ve given up 257 threes on the season, tied for 30th most in the country. Thankfully, Boston College isn’t a great three-point shooting team, and they also don’t defend the three very well, so SU might be able to make up a bit of ground.
But if you’re looking for one of the reasons the team is 16-13 and on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament, perimeter offense and defense are a huge culprit.
Sidibe turning the corner
In his last three games, Bourama Sidibe has put up the following stat line: 36 points, 35 rebounds, 11 blocks, nine steals, and just two turnovers. He’s had far and away his most productive stretch in a ‘Cuse uniform since joining the team.
But it’s not just the stat sheet that tells the story, it’s the way Sidibe is moving on the court, positioning his body, and most shockingly of all, keeping himself out of serious foul trouble early. Sidibe has still picked up 13 fouls in those three games, but he’s logged 87 minutes as well, far above his season average.
Sidibe is also being more aggressive with the ball. A perfect example was against UNC in the first half. He got the ball on an inbounds play, and instead of dumping it back to Buddy Boeheim, he took it hard to the rim and tried to dunk it right over UNC. He was fouled in the act. That one play signals a massive shift for the normally timid Sidibe. If he could somehow channel that energy moving forward, he could turn into a real weapon for the Orange.
Tit for tat with Buddy Boeheim
Buddy Boeheim has been a revelation on offense for this Syracuse Orange team. After another solid 22-point outing against UNC, he is now averaging 15.2 points per game, tied for ninth best in the league. There is a strong possibility that Boeheim will receive some level of All-ACC honors, something I would have never fathomed before the season began.
But for everything good he does on the offensive end, he gives it back up on defense. To be blunt, Boeheim is a terrible defender. He has slow foot speed, slow reaction speed, and doesn’t have the defensive intensity to pester anyone at the top of the zone. Most guards either blow right past him or easily pass over or around him.
Here’s an example of Boeheim getting blown by in transition (courtesy of our friends at The Tarheel blog):
It’s almost like Boeheim is afraid to confront Anthony on this play. And then to make matters worse, he swipes at the ball when he has no chance of getting it, and runs into three other Orange players, effectively cutting them off from the play. This poor court vision, awareness, and quickness rear their ugly heads multiple times every game.
And he’s an example of what happens due to Buddy Boeheim’s poor foot speed and slow first step:
Boeheim isn’t given the benefit of the doubt any more and Elijah Hughes has to come up to cut off the driving lane. This leaves the corner wide open. Granted, Hughes came up too high in this instance, but with a guard with decent footspeed, Hughes would never even need to cheat up. The corners and elbows have been a disaster for the Orange this year, and unfortunately, Boeheim is a major culprit.
What he gives on offense, he takes away on defense.
Second half slumps
The story in most of our losses has been an inability to keep up with opponents in the second half. The same held true against UNC on Saturday, who hit wide open shot after wide open shot to build an insurmountable lead early in the second half.
Let’s face the facts. This isn’t a good Syracuse basketball defense. In fact, statistically, it’s one of the worst in the Jim Boeheim era. It’s not just the points allowed, or the offensive rebounds, or the second chance points, or the poor perimeter defense, or the plethora of stupid fouls. It’s all of those things.
They’ve combined to form one of the ugliest zones I’ve ever watched. As exciting as it is to see an improved offense, it is absolutely at the expense of the defense. And it’s only gotten worse in the second half when the team gets tired.
Or wait, that can’t be it. I forget that players don’t get tired.
That’s it. No big key to the game here. Just get the win and keep the winning season streak alive. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day. This game doesn’t mean much beyond seeding in the ACC tournament. It’s a long shot that we’d receive an at large birth even if we win out to the tourney finals.
But who cares? Let’s just win anyways.