Syracuse Men’s Basketball Through Four Games
By Patrick Gunn
Syracuse Men’s Basketball finally seemed to be breaking through with seven and a half to play. Kadary Richmond, at the top of the key, found Alan Griffin open moving towards the basket with all of the Rutgers defenders lost near the three-point line. That slam gave Syracuse its first lead since the start of the first half. Then, moments later, Richmond intercepted a Scarlet Knight pass from behind the arc and took it all the way to the basket for a one-handed slam. Timeout, Rugers, three-point lead Syracuse. Momentum shifted.
With that said, Syracuse could not keep up that pace. The No. 21 Scarlet Knights (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) outlasted the Orange in a 79-69 win over the Orange (3-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast). Syracuse failed to take advantage of an opportunity to showcase their talents on a larger scale, and now leave Piscataway New Jersey with even more questions.
And Head Coach Jim Boeheim gave fans little answers to those questions after the game, commending his team for their efforts over the past four games mostly without center Bourama Sidibe and guard Buddy Boeheim.
“I feel really good right now from what I’ve seen,” Boeheim said. “We’re four games in and we’ve done a lot of good things. It’s difficult playing without Bourama and Buddy, but we’re going to.”
He’s not wrong, as the Orange have played hard and showcased their talent. With that said, effort and talent are not always enough to win at this level. The Orange have several glaring wholes that need to be addressed as they head into conference play against Boston College (1-4, 0-0 Atlantic Coast). Here are three of said questions.
IS JOE GIRARD III THE ANSWER AT THE POINT?
Girard showcased flashes of brilliance last season, even carrying the Orange on offense at points. With that said, Girard has not looked like the same player this season. He is shooting 12 for 46 from the field for an abysmal 26.1% from the field, while shooting an only slightly better 30.3% from deep.
That includes a three-point effort against Rutgers. Yes, he also had six assists, but he struggled to score for the third time in four games. He never shot efficiently last season (he shot 34.7% from the field and 32.3% from deep), but he still could reliably put up around ten points a game.
His shooting is not even the most concerning aspect of his game. That would be his defense, which rates even worse. He routinely struggles to stop guards from driving at the top of the zone, a crucial part of SU’s defense. Bryant took advantage of this earlier in the year, and Rutgers did the same, with guard Jacob Young scoring 18 points with 10 assists.
“They drove Joe consistently all night and you can’t get lost up in the fact that he’s having a bad offensive game and let it affect his defensive game,” Boeheim said after the game. “He’s got to be better on defense. Period.”
Look, it would be easy to press the panic button, but this is only game four. Girard is still playing hard and trying to contribute on other areas. However, if he cannot score – especially with Richmond having more length and steals – then Girard has to get better defensively.
CAN THEY HANG WITH LARGER TEAMS?
Rutgers gave the Orange’s first test playing against a team with several dynamic bigs. The Orange struggled on the glass all game, getting outrebounded 42 to 26. Most of those came from the transcendent Ron Harper Jr. (who led all scorers with 26 points) and center Miles Johnson.
Meanwhile, Alan Griffin led all SU players with eight boards. Quincy Guerrier had a fantastic scoring game, but he only had five rebounds, his lowest output of the season. Boeheim credited the fact that Gurrier spent too much time at the three-point line to why he had no offensive rebounds, his first game this season without an offensive board.
“He’s got to be able to mix it up, get a couple threes, but he’s also got to rebound the basketball,” Boeheim said.
Griffin and Guerrier are two of the most talented players on SU’s roster – and they showcased that talent against Rutgers, combining for 38 points. However, can they support Marek Dolezaj inside against larger, physical teams like Rutgers? Can they keep up on the glass without Sidibe when Griffin and Guerrier do not combine for 15-20 rebounds a game?
CAN THEY OUTSHOOT THEIR OPPONENTS?
This team is supposed to be a collection of sharp shooters on the outside. Griffin has mostly lived up to that standard, shooting 12-31 from deep, but, as mentioned earlier, Girard has struggled, and without Boeheim SU does not have the same edge from deep.
Rutgers outshot Syracuse from deep on Tuesday, shooting 9-24 compared to 7-26 from SU. To put that into perspective, Rutgers made just four three-pointers per game coming into their matchup.
Syracuse is going to give up open looks from deep with their defense still finding its footing. But, even with Buddy back, does SU have the firepower to make up for those struggles?
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