The Syracuse Orange basketball squads were the last men’s and women’s pairing in NCAA Division 1 to both be undefeated on their home court. That came to an end Tuesday night against Florida State, as SU missed shots at the line and from the arc alike in an 85-69 loss.
Right to the takeaways:
Down, but Not Out
I feel like I need to say this from the jump: As poor as the Orange played, this loss isn’t as season-altering as it may appear.
Sure it kills some momentum after Quadir Copeland’s buzzer beater against Miami, but in the grand scheme of bracketology, I firmly believe this loss will age just fine. FSU was hampered by injuries in their non-conference schedule and now that the ‘Noles are much closer to full strength, they’ve used their bench extremely well to create turning points in close games.
‘Cuse seemed right in it through this slam by Judah Mintz...
Whoa Judah — Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 24, 2024
... but what followed was great clock management by the visitors, who wore out the Orange defense, then snatched on careless turnovers in the midcourt. A 13-2 run put them in control for good.
Assuming another Tar Heel victory, SU should be aiming for 8-3/9-2 the rest of the way. That puts them in good position to need only one or two ACC Tournament wins to be in serious consideration for the big dance.
Meanwhile, FSU should help them in the aggregate by also playing hard against other ACC teams and ideally taking out the middle of the pack teams also fighting with Syracuse for a double-digit seed.
Lost From the Start
While the score was close, Syracuse’s touch on offense was nowhere to be found all night. Take away a 28-point outing from Mintz and a 12-rebound night from Maliq Brown and nothing stands out on the stat sheet. Nothing positive, anyway.
1/14 from distance, 11 missed free throws, and 16 turnovers all put together will not lead to success. What can is understanding and correcting the errors SU made throughout the loss.
Exhibit A: the shot selection, courtesy of SideArm
It’s ok to not be a great deep-shooting team. It’s NOT ok to keep missing the same shots all night and not even attempting to work the mid-range game.
We saw exactly how well the secondary scoring can be when Mintz drew pressure off them the last two games with his consistent presence in the paint. He did have three assists... but the rest of the team combined for four. No one was interested in moving the ball around and splitting the defense, and the result was fairly ineffective iso ball.
The only reason SU kept it tight for 3⁄4 of the game was the sheer amount of fouls Florida State committed. They got 22 out of 33 possible freebies, while FSU capitalized on 15 of their 20 shots at the line. Considering he got a shoutout on the broadcast, he gets one from me too: “Free throws matter!” - Brent Axe
Dealt a Poor Hand
Part of the problem is simply that Red does not have the manpower he was hoping for. Mounir Hima is clearly not healthy. Naheem McLeod, while not spectacular, was a very big body to throw around for 10 minutes.
Without either of those two, the entire offensive structure changes. You’re forced to play not one but two starters out of position - Justin Taylor at the 4 and Brown at the 5. Both work in bunches but expecting 28-30 minutes every night from them isn’t sustainable.
Autry has been cutting JT’s minutes way down (he only played 12 against FSU), but when the other healthy option, one Benny Williams, is in his own mental funk, what do you do? Stretch out a very streaky Q? Turn to 6’2” Kyle Cuffe and have two guys on the floor who can’t help much with rebounding?
With Maliq, it’s not so much the minutes as it is the matchups he sometimes has to endure as the “center” in the rotation. He may have the best intangibles on the entire team, but it only means so much when the guy you’re guarding, and being guarded by, has both a height and width advantage.
Consider the length the Seminoles had on display, and it could have been much uglier.