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Syracuse men’s basketball: what can shot charts tell us about the Orange offense

A change of approach could unlock this team’s best

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange fans need to stop living in 2018 and give up the notion that this team will suddenly morph into a defensive stalwart built to win games in the 50s.

If Syracuse is going to put together a strong ACC season, the offense is going to need to do the heavy lifting. After the loss at Virginia, the Orange rank 82nd in offensive efficiency and 116th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. If you want to take away the fancy metrics, Syracuse is 134th in the country in points scored (74.6 per game) and 201st in points allowed (69.3 per game).

So what can Jim Boeheim do to tap into more offense?

Shooting % by half

Some of it is out of the coach’s control because overall Syracuse is not good when it comes to scoring in the paint-especially the two players with the ball in their hands the most often. Judah Mintz has been able to get into the lane frequently and to his credit he does draw a lot of fouls, but when he’s not fouled he’s not making those pull-up jumpers. Joe Girard would be better off dribbling out of the lane and taking the baseline jumpers on the right side of the court- you can see below how he’s most comfortable on that side.

So what about the rest of the Orange? We know that Jesse Edwards and Maliq Brown are basically dunks/lay-ups or nothing right now, so let’s look at the forwards and some numbers that might surprise you. See all that red on Chris Bell’s chart? Yeah, he might be a better shooter than he was hyped up to be. While I don’t think taking a lot of long 2’s is a great strategy, I was shocked to see how many Bell is knocking down.

I know you’re thinking about his lack of rebounding and trouble in the zone and that’s absolutely fair. However, what Bell and Girard can do on offense would suggest that you find a way to cover for their defensive shortcomings to keep that offense on the floor.

It’s funny to hear Jim Boeheim talk about Justin Taylor moving to the 2 at some point because when you look at the shot charts and rebounding, it would suggest that maybe Taylor should be the SF and Bell the SG next year.

Before the season Boeheim said this team would look different than the sub-500 squad of the previous season.

“We’re so much different this year. We’re going to play 9-10 guys. We’re faster. We’re quicker. We’re better.”

Second half comebacks against Pitt and Virginia were fueled by pressure defense and quicker offense. Instead of sitting in the 2-3 and yanking young players for missing rotations in the zone, he should heed his own advice from October and loosen the reins. Will there be mistakes? Sure, but if you’re going to have a chance you need to play to the group’s strengths.

This isn’t a call for 40 minutes of pressure defense but waiting to fall behind 20 to change the approach isn’t the way to go. The Orange have a group of bench players well-suited to press so even if you use that in the first half while giving some of the starters a rest, it could serve two purposes: disrupt your opponent’s rhythm on offense and generate some energy and easier offense for the Orange.