Jim Boeheim and the 2012-13 Syracuse Orange look poised to make a run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but several areas need improvement in order for the team to reach its first Final Four in a decade (2003).
Syracuse’s recent 70-68 win over then-No. 1 ranked Louisville moved them within the top three ranked teams in the nation, but they will certainly be tested by the teams remaining in their schedule and the Big East tournament.
If Syracuse makes these five adjustments, President Barack Obama might find it difficult not to choose this Syracuse team to make the Final Four while filling out his presidential tournament brackets come March.
Note: All statistics mentioned are as of 1/21/2013.
Michael Carter-Williams has been building national hype all season long with his play and is considered one of the best point guards in the nation by Jay Bilas. Carter-Williams leads the nation in assists with 9.3 per game, is fourth in steals per game with 3.2 and is averaging 12.1 points for the No. 3 ranked Orange.
Carter-Williams should make better shot selection decisions. He’s shooting 36.5 percent for the season, while the top scorers on the team, Brandon Triche and James Southerland, are shooting above 45 percent. Syracuse can’t afford for Carter-Williams to have another game like he did against South Florida, shooting 1-of-13 from the field.
More screens, picks and backdoor cuts should drastically cut down on the amount of missed shots for Carter-Williams, increase opportunities for higher percentage shots and increase Syracuse's points per game average.
Syracuse is currently ranked 222nd in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, averaging 32.5 percent.
Slowing down the games, making better shot selections and generating more ball movement would solve this problem. Missing 67.5 percent of its shots from three-point range might be one of the biggest reasons Syracuse is in many close games in the last remaining minutes.
In their only loss of the season, Syracuse went 2-of-12 from behind the arc against Temple.
Boeheim should coach his guards to feed the big men in the middle more often for higher percentage shots or set screens for Michael Carter-Williams to take better shots.
Syracuse is currently ranked 67th in field goal percentage, shooting 45.7 percent as a team. Other top teams in the nation like Michigan and Kansas are shooting 51 percent and 48.4 percent respectively. If Syracuse wants to beat top teams in the nation and reach the Final Four, they’ll need to get better at making buckets.
Boeheim’s bigs once again need to get down and dirty in the paint. Triche and Carter-Williams have taken four times and twice as many shots as Keita and Christmas have, which is normal, but the big men need to make their shots when given the opportunity.
If I were Boeheim, I’d have my bigs watching tape of the NBA greats Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and his dream shake or Shaquille O’ Neal and his work in the key. Backing down opponents in the low post breeds better shot opportunities for the offense.
A turnover is the one statistic that can often determine outcomes. Syracuse is ranked 164th in the nation in turnovers, averaging 13.6 per game.
It is ironic that Triche and Carter-Williams turn the ball over 2.5 and 3.8 times per game since they are the primary ball handlers. Also, Carter-Williams has seen a 20-plus minutes per game increase from his freshman year, meaning his inexperience could be leading to turnovers.
Maybe Boeheim should consider a deal similar to what the Knicks have with their coach Mike Woodson. If the Knicks commit less than 13 turnovers in a game, Knicks coaches have to run one sprint per turnover.
Since then, the Knicks have averaged the least amount of turnovers in the league.