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What should Syracuse know about Symir Torrence? A Q&A with Anonymous Eagle

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Asking people that know (Marquette fans) about the Orange’s new addition.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Since he just announced he’d transfer to the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program yesterday, we don’t know much yet about new guard Symir Torrence. But we do know folks who do — fans of the Marquette Golden Eagles, his former team.

Luckily, Andrew over at Anonymous Eagle was able to answer a few questions for us about Symir and what sort of player Syracuse is adding. Hope these are helpful for everyone here just looking for more information, and thanks to Andrew for taking the time.

Torrence was a well-touted player coming out of high school, but never really seemed to get things going in two years with Marquette? What happened there? Play struggles on his end? Or just recruited over?

I think a couple of things ended up biting him from behind. First of all, when Symir Torrence originally committed to Marquette, he was a Class of 2020 prospect. That would have made him a freshman on this past year’s team, but he ended up reclassifying to 2019 to end up as a top 80 prospect in that recruiting class... but it also meant he was a freshman on a team during Markus Howard’s senior year.

Facts are facts: trying to earn playing time when 30+ guard minutes are taken up by an All-American who happens to break the program’s all-time scoring record during the first game of your collegiate career is kind of hard. Then, after Howard left, Steve Wojciechowski went out and brought in D.J. Carton as a transfer and pretty much just handed Carton the minutes that Howard was playing.

Would everyone involved have benefited from Torrence, who appears to be a much more natural point guard than Howard or Carton, playing more of the point guard minutes instead of those two playing with Koby McEwen as their shooting guard? Maybe! It’s fairly easy to think that, especially now that Marquette has shown Wojciechowski the gate after going 13-14 this past season. In any case, Carton’s minutes weren’t going anywhere anytime soon and Torrence was a sophomore just like Carton in terms of eligibility. That’s how you end up with a guy electing to transfer just days before the coach gets fired.

When talking about why he was looking for a fresh start, Torrence seemed to indicate he was scared of making mistakes and wanted to play more. Anything to add there?

With playing time at a premium for him as a freshman, Torrence never really got a chance to show what he could do in long stretches. Perhaps more accurately, when he did play, he wasn’t given much time to get comfortable, perhaps largely because the team couldn’t afford to have him out there if he wasn’t pushing things forward to an NCAA tournament berth. Remember: This was the season immediately after the Hauser brothers left Marquette, and I think it’s safe to say that Steve Wojciechowski and his slightly insane new contract extension realized that not making the tourney would have been a big problem. If Torrence wasn’t getting it done, then he wouldn’t play, and that happened an awful lot his freshman year.

Sophomore year didn’t get better, as it began with Torrence in the starting lineup for the first three games, getting more than 19 minutes of run in each of them.... and then D.J. Carton replaced him in the lineup and Torrence played more than 18 minutes just twice the rest of the season. If he was feeling the pressure about making mistakes and that led to sub-optimal play from him, that just turned into a recursive loop that kept him off the floor as well.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the biggest positive you can share about his play that should help Syracuse out?

I think Torrence has always been labeled as a combo guard if I remember his recruiting process correctly, but that does a disservice to his passing ability. He’s the kind of passer who knows where the ball is going when he’s watching it come to him and he can quickly and accurately re-distribute it to teammates to keep defenses moving and off-balance. It’s not just passing for the sake of passing, either. He has a great ability to land a pass exactly where a teammate needs it at the moment to be the most valuable to them. Whether it’s for a catch-and-shoot, or for a quick drive, or whatever have you, Torrence has that ability to activate his teammates through his passing.

Any major weaknesses that we should be aware of?

Two — one more concerning than the other.

I go back and forth as to whether or not Torrence actually had a turnover problem while at Marquette. He averaged 0.8 per game as a Golden Eagles while averaging just under 12 minutes per game. You can do the math on where that goes if you double his minutes. If you prefer to think of it in terms of rate, he turned it over 31% of the time as a freshman according to KenPom.com and 25% of the time as a sophomore. It sounds bad, yes. But, going back to what we were talking about in terms of him being worried about making mistakes, a decent chunk of his turnovers came in games when he played six minutes or so and turned it over once. That’s very few possessions but a lot of turnovers. If he gets a chance to play regularly and get into a rhythm, is that turnover problem going to go away or is it going to get worse by volume?

The other one is his shooting. I honestly don’t think his turnovers kept him off the floor as a sophomore as much as his long range shooting did. Torrence knocked in 38% of his three-point attempts as a freshman, including going 4-for-10 in Big East play. That’s more than healthy enough to deserve more playing time. The 14% as a sophomore and 2-for-20 in Big East play this past season? Yeah, it’s no good. For whatever reason — lack of gym time over the summer of 2020 because of the pandemic? — Torrence just completely forgot how to shoot three-pointers in between his freshman and sophomore years. Is that something he’s going to bounce back from or were there confidence issues as we discussed earlier that led to his accuracy issues? His free throw shooting dropped off as well, going from 73% as a freshman to 67% as a sophomore, so read into that however you want.

Thoughts on whether he’s a good fit for the zone?

It’s been a while since I had to actually think about the Syracuse zone since y’all bolted off for the ACC, and I definitely wasn’t the expert in what works and doesn’t work with it as your average Syracuse season ticket holder is in the first place.

With that said, in going back to pull the links you saw earlier in my answers, I noticed that I had discovered that the 6’3” Torrence has a 6’8” wingspan, or at least that’s what was reported around the time he committed to Marquette. Your wingspan is supposed to be roughly equivalent to your height, or that’s what I was always told, so if Torrence has a longer than average reach for a 6’3” guy, that seems like it would be beneficial to playing in the zone. I never had any particularly strong opinions about Torrence’s defense one way or another, so I guess we could chalk him up as “fine” in terms of overall play. If you’re interested in what a sampling of Marquette fans thought about Torrence’s defense from his freshman year, we did a “Rate The Defenders” project, and everyone’s votes on Torrence are available here.