As the Syracuse Orange NCAA Tournament hopes cling to a sliver of hope we’ve focused a lot of the attention on the porous zone defense. This overlooks a problem on the other side of the ball which has taken the Orange from what was so successful early in the year and brought them back to bad habits on offense.
In the first twelve games of the season Syracuse was held below thirteen assists in only one game (Northeastern). The Orange moved the ball so well that they had three games where they had twenty-three or more assists. We talked a lot about the shooters on this team and we thought this could overcome some of the rebounding and defensive issues.
Since the home win over Miami when Syracuse had nineteen assists the Orange have not shared the ball as they did to begin the season. In the last eight games Syracuse has had more than thirteen assists twice and both of those came against N.C. State. With teams focusing on the Orange perimeter players, the offense has reverted to isolation one player in a favorable match-up while the rest of the team stands and watches.
Marek Dolezaj is Syracuse’s leader in assists during ACC play with an average of 3.2 per game which is good for fourteenth in the conference. He’s also the team’s starting center and should probably be the one the offense runs through on more possessions. Instead of being a screener, Dolezaj should be the distributor and yes you’ve heard us say this before- and a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by ACC journalists.
Could we just let Notre Dame and Mike Brey's offense borrow Dolezaj for a few games because frankly I'd love to see what that would look like— Lauren Brownlow (@lebrownlow) February 23, 2021
You might think that the drop in assists could be due to a drop in shooting but the Orange are shooting slightly better from the field in ACC play (44.3%) than their season number (43.9%). At this point we can hope the defense finds some footing in the final games or we can be realistic and realize that Syracuse’s best hopes are from the offense and getting back to the early-season ball movement is critical to reviving those NCAA hopes.