How can the Orange beat Louisville Again?
How things have changed since January 19th. The Orange were 16-1 and in Louisville to take on the top-ranked Cardinals, also 16-1. Each had visions of the Final Four.
Well, those visions are still there...just a bit cloudier. The No. 12-ranked Orange host the No. 10-ranked Cardinals this Saturday in a high noon showdown.
Syracuse has lost five of its last nine and is looking to avoid losing two in a row at home after a school record 38-game winning streak was snapped by the hated Georgetown Hoyas this past Saturday.
The Orange need to win. Here are the keys.
I know. You're getting tired of reading about the Syracuse shooting woes. Well, I'm getting tired of writing about them, but that doesn't change the fact that the Orange have to start putting the ball in the basket with much more regularity or this season is not going to end well.
This isn't very complicated. Brandon Triche has to keep taking shots while making more of them than he has lately. This isn't about X's and O's on a clipboard. It's about Triche putting too much pressure on himself. He has to go play basketball like he has his whole life and relax.
James Southerland has to be a little more aware of his shot selection. The Orange were up 12-4 against Georgetown after Southerland hit a long three. They then fell in love with the thought of making the 35,012 fans in the Dome jump out of their seats and scream. That didn't work so well.
And just as an afterthought, let's get some more shots for C.J. Fair, who has been ridiculously efficient.
Both Louisville and Syracuse thrive on getting out on the break and scoring points in transition. The team that's better able to run and score will win.
It's been a rough stretch for Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams. During the recent 4-5 streak, he's only averaging 1.8 assists for each turnover. That won't get it done. He has to make better decisions and take better care of the basketball.
If he and Triche aren't careful, the Louisville backcourt of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva will pick their pockets and be gone.
Syracuse depends on the transition game to spark its offense, and the transition game is triggered by rebounding the ball. The Orange have to win on the glass in order to get out and run.
They also need to be strong on the defensive boards to keep Louisville from getting second chances. Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan are active and athletic and the Orange will have to be just as active in boxing out to keep them from getting easy, putback baskets.
This might be the game to bring back DaJuan Coleman to give the Orange a big body underneath.
The Louisville guards, Siva and Smith, are great penetrators. Their ability to get into the lane allows them to either finish at the rim, find someone underneath or kick it out for a three.
Carter-Williams and Triche will have to be strong at the top of the zone and keep the Cardinals guards out of the lane. They have the length and strength to do just that.
At the same time, the back of the zone will have to be active and quick on their slides. Louisville is fast and athletic and the defensive communication and movement has to be sharp.
The Orange would do well to forget about all those fannies in the seats of the Carrier Dome. They need to run and shoot like they're on the playground.
It's been a rough month for the Orange. As if five losses and seeing their school record home winning streak end wasn't enough, their Hall of Fame coach has had a couple of well-publicized dust-ups with the media.
Boy, they could use a break.
Syracuse has played tight the last month and that won't win many games. The team needs to relax and do what it loves to do.