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Syracuse men’s basketball: Orange needs to focus on ball movement

When things get tough the Orange revert to hero ball

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has a lot of areas to work on if they are going to return to the NCAA Tournament.

A glaring issue after the first two games is the difference in ball movement between Syracuse and their opponents. Through two games the Orange have 22 assists on 54 field goals. Their two opponents have 38 assists on 55 field goals. To add insult to injury Colgate’s center, Jeff Woodward had 7 assists in 23 minutes the other night.

Syracuse currently ranks 302nd in the country in assists per game with 11 per game. Last year they averaged 14.6 and the year before it was 15. Both of those were top 100 in the country but when you look deeper there’s a trend that shows up in games where the Orange struggle to keep the ball moving.

Since the start of 20-21, the Orange have had 11 games with fewer than 10 assists and to no one’s surprise their record in these games isn’t very good.

20-21:1-2 Win- Northeastern. Losses- Clemson and Houston

21-22:1-6 Win- Boston College. Losses- Villanova, VCU, UNC, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Pitt

22-23:0-1 Loss to Colgate

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When a team falls behind, it’s easy for confident players to try and do things themselves. They are instilled with the experience of carrying teams on their back and the belief that they can do it. What this Syracuse team needs to do is avoid the trap that last year’s squad fell into and that’s reverting to hero ball.

Breaking from the ball and player movement makes the Orange easier to defend. While Judah Mintz showed an ability to create his own shot, when he and others are looking to go 1 on 1, the other players are standing and watching.

Jim Boeheim is going to have to maneuver his rotation to find the best matchups each game. There are going to be stretches of games where the Orange are playing more than one player who isn’t an offensive threat. In those situations, Syracuse can still generate easy baskets if players are willing to keep the ball moving.

Just look at what Colgate did to the Orange. If you can force the defense to move and recover repeatedly you’ll end up with good looks. You’ll end up with a scrambling defense leading to offensive rebound opportunities. You’ll make it easier for a young team to find ways to build confidence. Should the Orange try to win games through isolation basketball, it’ll be another long winter fighting to stay above .500