Welcome back everyone to your weekly dose of Cardiac ‘Cuse.
The Syracuse Orange barely squeaked pass the NC State Wolfpack on Sunday night with a 76-73 win. The Orange needed drastic game plan and personnel changes to spark an 11-point comeback against an undermanned Wolfpack team. While a win is a win, Syracuse’s vast issues in the 2020-21 season crept back into the picture.
Here’s our takeaways from a rather unusual and weird game.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that Syracuse played one of its worst halves of the year against NC State. The first 20 minutes of the game featured an Orange team that lacked confidence and sharpness. NC State made the Orange uncomfortable with tight on-ball defense that forced sloppy turnovers. Syracuse also somehow lost the ability to finish around the rim with multiple high-percentage shots not falling through the net.
Defensively, Syracuse looked worse. The Orange couldn’t stop Jericole Hellems from doing whatever he wanted in the high post. The Wolfpack shot 56.7% from the floor in the first half and looked like a team that was more hungry to win a basketball game than Syracuse. Luckily for the Orange, there was a player available on the bench to help the SU cause.
Why isn’t Kadary Richmond playing more?
If you’re one of the few people who somehow haven’t realized how influential Richmond has been, let a familiar Orange face break it down for you.
Kadary makes such a difference because he always is looking to put pressure on the defense...helps out our shooters as the defense focuses more on him...and if they stick then he finishes he’s doing a great job...he needs to play for sure but I love how he goes hard regardless— Eric Devendorf (@ED23HOOPS) February 1, 2021
A game like this was tailor-made for Richmond. His ability to put the ball on the floor is so effective against players who want to face-guard tightly, as NC State did. Richmond’s defensive influence is just as important, even if it doesn’t show in the box score. His length at the top of the zone is reminiscent of the impact that Frank Howard and Tyus Battle had at the top of the zone.
The Wolfpack had to change how they played offensively with Richmond in the game. The Orange offense evolved as well with his dribble-drive ability. What Syracuse misses a lot is consistency on offense. Richmond was 6-of-7 from the floor with 14 points. His defense gives Syracuse the length it doesn’t have with its starting guards. With how inconsistent the Orange starting guards are with their offensive production, it’s a mystery why Richmond doesn’t get more minutes.
Who’s shooting the ball?
This applies on both sides of the floor. There’s been a lot of talk about Syracuse shot selection, but something that deserves just as much attention is the Orange shot distribution. We’ve already established that Joe Girard, Buddy Boeheim, and Alan Griffin have the opposite of Tyler Lydon Syndrome, where each player is never shy to take any shot available at any time. That takes away shooting opportunities for Syracuse’s most efficient scorers in Quincy Guerrier, Marek Dolezaj, and Richmond. While Guerrier was a part of the sloppy first half, his trademark efficiency around the rim returned in the second half. The latter three guys need to take more shots, while the former need to lay off the trigger every now and then.
On the opposite end of the floor, I mentioned how important identifying scoring threats would be against NC State without Devon Daniels. The Orange zone started the game with their wings playing extremely high, leaving Dolezaj the almost-impossible task to cover both Hellems and Manny Bates at the same time. Syracuse didn’t start leaving a man on Bates, who hung around the low post, until the second half. Forcing the other inexperienced Wolfpack players to score helped to fuel Syracuse’s second-half comeback.