Thankfully for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team, the month of January is over.
During the 1st month of 2023, Syracuse had a 4-5 record- 2-2 at home and 2-3 on the road. The Orange had won 9 of 11 and we thought that maybe they would find a way to get back into NCAA Tournament discussion.
Since then, Syracuse has been able to only win 1 of the last 5 and now the question isn’t about getting back in the bubble, but it might be can the Orange avoid a second straight losing season?
Where has it gone wrong for the Orange? Well just like last season, the defense has failed the Orange. Opponents averaged 20 assists per game in January, while the Syracuse zone (and press) only forced 11 turnovers. Every Syracuse rotation player has a defensive rating over 100 in ACC play, which means that conference opponents are scoring over a point per possession. It’s also telling that Joe Girard, Judah Mintz, Benny Williams, Justin Taylor, Symir Torrence and Chris Bell all have defensive ratings of 108.5 or higher. The Orange are simply getting cooked on the perimeter no matter who is on the floor.
Free throw shooting was another issue last month. Syracuse is shooting 72% on the season but in 5 of the 9 games, they were under 70% from the line. Turnovers and missed free throws mean leaving points on the board and if you aren’t stopping teams, that leads to problems.
Jim Boeheim thinks his team has been playing better and there were signs in January. Syracuse has done a better job rebounding and the offensive efficiency was better thanks in part to improved 3-point shooting percentage. It feels like the Orange could be even better on this end if Bell, Taylor and others were getting more opportunities. Girard, Mintz and Jesse Edwards are taking over 63% of Syracuse’s shots in ACC play and giving more chances to other players is something to watch the rest of the way.
Will February be better for Syracuse? As the Orange prepare to hit the road for the next two games, we hope that they will provide us with more optimism heading into the ACC Tournament.