Syracuse Basketball: Blueprint to Turn Orange's Sinking Ship Around
The Syracuse Orange and head coach Jim Boeheim now find themselves wondering what went wrong this season. After starting well, the Orange were on the fast track to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now, after losing seven of the final 12 games, they need to figure out how to get back on track.
Things went down hill fast for Syracuse this year.
The team had an emotional victory on January 19 that propelled them to a No. 3 ranking. Then, shots stopped going in and the Orange lost back-to-back conference road games at Villanova and Pittsburgh.
Injuries, mental mistakes, poor shooting and a downright lack of effort at times have all played a role in changing the season from a dream to a nightmare.
It's yet to be seen if the season can be turned out. As the Big East Tournament approaches, followed by the Big Dance, Syracuse needs to figure it out fast.
The Guards Must Play Better
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Earlier in the season, the strength of Syracuse was its backcourt. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams were both having terrific years.
Fast forward to the present time, and the Orange find themselves in the middle of a dismal stretch, losing four of their final five games. The losses have come in correlation with poor play from the backcourt.
Brandon Triche has had a particularly difficult time over the last month or so. In his last 10 games, Triche has failed to reach double-digit points in half of them. In four of those games, he shot less than 25 percent from the field.
In the regular season finale at Georgetown, the senior shot just one of nine from the floor for two points.
That's not the production that is needed from a shooting guard.
Point guard Carter-Williams has also struggled, committing 15 turnovers in his last five games. While he has still managed to score points, the sophomore has made several costly mental mistakes throughout the course of the last few games.
If Syracuse is going to turn this thing around, the guards are going to have to improve and return to the form that had this team rolling midway through the season.
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Yes, it's been said many times recently, Syracuse has not been able to shoot the ball. The goal of basketball is to make more baskets than the opponent. That's something the Orange have not been able to do for the past few games.
For the year, Syracuse ranks 136th, shooting 43.9 percent from the field. It's even worse than that from behind the arc, as the Orange are tied for 287th in the nation, connecting just 31.3 percent.
In the regular season finale against the Hoyas, Syracuse shot 31.9 percent from the field and hit a pitiful one out of 11 three-pointers.
The biggest reason for the poor shooting can be attributed to the Orange's willingness to settle for jump shots from the perimeter. Driving the lane was a strength of this team that has all but disappeared over the last month.
In order to be successful in the upcoming postseason, Syracuse must work on taking quality shots and getting the ball inside to its lengthy frontcourt.
Work the Glass
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A wealth of size down low has made the Orange one of the top rebounding teams in the country. Unfortunately, while they are still ranked 17th in rebounding, that number has dropped. They spent much of the year in the top 10 of that category.
Lately, rebounding has become somewhat of a problem, allowing smaller teams to win the battle on the boards and create valuable second-chance opportunities. Failing to get rebounds can quickly take the heart out of any team and that's exactly what's been going on at Syracuse lately.
It's no coincidence that the Orange have been out-rebounded in six of their eight losses.
C.J. Fair currently leads the team with 7.1 rebounds a game. The addition of forward DaJuan Coleman, who is being eased back into the lineup after missing eight games with an injury, should start to help Syracuse improve on the glass.
If Syracuse is going to salvage its season, rebounding must once again become a strength.
Turn Up the Energy
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Lately, it seems that the Orange have been playing with both a lack of energy and a loss of focus. Guys have been walking down the court and not showing the hustle that had propelled this team to a No. 3 ranking earlier in the year.
Slow starts have doomed the Orange and Saturday's game at Georgetown was no different. Syracuse managed just 18 points in the first half and finished the contest with a pitiful total of 39, the lowest output in Big East play under Jim Boeheim.
Mental mistakes have also been a problem during the current losing stretch. Bad turnovers and poor shot selection have aided in the demise of a once promising season.
The Orange have averaged 14 turnovers in their last four losses.
Jim Boeheim needs to find a way to ignite his team and evoke passion for the postseason. If Syracuse doesn't wake up and get serious about the task that needs done, an early tournament exit is a real possibility.