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Breaking down Cole Swider’s shot selection in his first season for Syracuse basketball

Jim Boeheim wants to get Cole more shots so we look at where he’s found success this season

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest offseason transfers for the Syracuse Orange heading into the 2021-22 season was bringing in former Villanova Wildcat, forward Cole Swider, for his senior year. This year with an increased role and more minutes per game as a member of the starting rotation, Swider has seen his best statistical season yet in the Orange’s system.

18 games into his tenure with the Orange, Swider is averaging 12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 41.0% shooting from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc.

The Portsmouth native has led the Orange in rebounding this season is tied for second in minutes per game averaging 34.4 per contest. Before this season, Swider played a complementary role in the Wildcats system, primarily coming off the bench as a spark plug on offense only averaging 15.6 minutes per game over three seasons.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Villanova at Baylor IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The strong shooting efficiency Swider was known for at Villanova carried over into his tenure with the Orange and has overall been a solid addition to the shooting-heavy starting line-up.

Swider ranks third on Syracuse’s roster in three-pointers attempted and made so far this season but has been inconsistent. Out of the eight-game this season where Swider shot below 40% from the field, Syracuse lost five of those games. In order for this middle-of-the-road Syracuse team to make a run in the second half of the season, Swider needs to step up and become more aggressive getting to his spots and shooting the ball.

“Well we are trying to get him more shots,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said during this past week's ACC coach’s conference call. “I mean when he makes shots everybody wonders why he doesn't get more shots, but he's getting the shots he can get. I mean he is still working putting the ball on the floor and getting his shot, that's been a struggle.”

Jim noted during the conference call that during last Saturday's 76-71 loss to FSU that Swider, who finished the contest with 17 points and 7 rebounds on 5-15 shooting, was more aggressive getting shots up than usual but elaborated on how difficult it is to make those shots if the opposing team is strapping him up defensively.

“Saturday I thought we did a good job setting him up and getting him in position, but it's tough to get a scorer more shots if they are staying with him and they are not leaving him and that's what happened after he made a couple so it was hard to get him shots”.

CBB Analytics

The image above shows Swider's average shooting percentage from different locations on the floor. Swider’s most efficient shot this season has been the corner three-pointer from the left side of the arc where he shoots 47.6% on 10-21 total shot attempts, well above the 35.3% D-1 average from that zone.

The weakest spot on the floor for Swider in terms of efficiency this season is the top of the left-hand side of the key, where he shoots an abysmal 16.7% on 1-6 shot attempts. Now even though Swider has only taken six shots from this area and that may not be enough to say he is a below-average mid-range shooter, he also shoots 36.8% from inside the paint on 7/19 shooting. Swider’s shooting percentages from this area indicate that when there is more pressure surrounding him inside the arc, he struggles more to shoot with a defender contesting him.

Swider also shoots below average from distance in some specific areas. He shoots 26.9% on 7-26 shots from the center of the arc and 23.1% on 3-13 shooting from the right side of the wing, which might look worse on the stat sheet than in real life.

CBB Analytics

When looking at his advanced shooting percentages chart, it's clear that Swider is at his best when he is shooting from corners and wings of the arc. Last night against Clemson, a big reason why Swider struggled to get his shots up was that Clemson’s defense forced him into uncomfortable contested shots.

Swider finished the contest against the Tigers with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block on 2-7 shooting from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arc. Swider’s inefficiency was a result of the Tigers relentless effort to force him into shots off the dribble rather than spot up.

Out of Swider’s 7 shot attempts last night, 4 of those shots were off the dribble, a consistent weakness from the senior forward according to Boeheim.

“It was hard to get him shots, Boeheim said. “He (Swider) had a couple late that he missed but again, he is getting better at putting the ball on the floor and getting to his shot, and that's important?”

To ensure this team gets the best out of Swider in these last few weeks of the regular season, Boeheim and his coaching staff should look into designing more plays that utilize their guards' playmaking abilities. Running more offensive schemes that allow Syracuse’s playmaking would set up Swider in more catch-and-shoot situations rather than being forced to create his own shot off the dribble. If this coaching staff can find a way to play into Swider’s strengths rather than putting him into ineffective offensive situations, expect a strong finish to the season from the senior forward and hopefully an opportunity to shine in the postseason if all goes well.