Syracuse Basketball's Blueprint for Capturing the Big East Title
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What better way for the Orange to exit the Big East than to win one more conference title?
One more trophy to raise at their second home, Madison Square Garden.
It's so hard to imagine playing a conference tournament in North Carolina, but I digress. If you're into motivational sayings, then you know this one: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
But it is probably a good idea to figure out how the Orange can get to where we all want them to go: Big East Champions.
Sharpshooter James Southerland
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There have been times this season when the Orange just can't put the ball in the basket.
That's a problem. The half-court offense has been stagnant in some games, and it's much more a function of not making shots than poor ball movement.
Getting James Southerland back from his suspension is the key. When he's out on the floor, he opens up the rest of the floor for his teammates, regardless of if he makes shots.
And, generally, he makes shots.
Southerland and Brandon Triche need to keep shooting from outside. They're shooters and pull the defense out and open up space inside even if they miss.
C. J. Fair may have a great three-point shooting percentage, but he and Michael Carter-Williams aren't pure shooters and need to continue to pick their spots. Fair has done a good job of that, and Carter-Williams has improved his shot selection as the season has progressed.
If Trevor Cooney can hit one or two each game, the Orange will be in good shape.
Win on the Boards
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In the Orange's 21 wins, they have out-rebounded the other team by an average of eight boards per game. In their four losses, they've been out-rebounded by an average of seven.
They've got to get to more missed shots than they do. It's not rocket science.
Rebounding on the defensive end is critical for Syracuse. It triggers their transition game. Refer to the previous slide regarding the Orange's shooting woes, and it's obvious that getting out on the break for easy baskets is key for the Orange.
Rebounding on the offensive end also helps that shooting issue. It gives the Orange more chances.
There's not much more demoralizing than too many one-and-dones.
Increase Inside Scoring
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The Orange have been too perimeter-oriented on offense this season. C.J. Fair has been tremendous, but he needs help inside.
That help needs to be spearheaded by Rakeem Christmas.
Christmas was a McDonald's All-American and needs to play like one. He has the athleticism to be much more effective inside. He has had his moments but spends too much time seemingly absent offensively.
This has more to do with Christmas' demeanor than talent. He's a very laid-back guy and might just need to find something to be angry about on the court. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird come to mind as great players who always seemed to play with fire and intensity.
Christmas could use that.
The return of Southerland should help the inside game also. We already talked about his presence opening up the floor and he does also do a nice job inside.
The other McDonald's All-American center needs to step up, too. DaJuan Coleman should be back soon and has the size and ability to score more inside.
Be Ferocious on Defense
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Syracuse and the 2-3 zone go together like PB&J. The Orange play great defense when they realize that doing that leads to steals, run-outs and easy baskets.
This team has been very good defensively. Once again, we see a connection to poor shooting. More transition points mean less need for half-court points.
Shooting can have a bad night. Defense is just effort and generally doesn't take a night off.
Play for Name on Front of Jersey and Not Back
Play for the team
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It's not always the most talented team that wins. The team that's playing the best wins. There's a lot that goes into that.
Playing together and for each other is something that many teams never find.
How a team feels about each other can be huge, especially when it comes to minutes.
When James Southerland missed six games, Jeremi Grant and Rakeem Christmas got more minutes. A lot more minutes in Grant's case. How he handles more time on the bench will be important.
When Coleman comes back, that will mean fewer minutes for Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita. Again, how they handle that will be critical.
A key to last year's success was Dion Waiters accepting his role as sixth man. That acceptance sure didn't hurt him personally, now did it?
Here's hoping that this year's Orange realize that, too.