Syracuse Basketball: Orange's Best Situational Lineups in 2013-14
The Syracuse basketball team is off to an impressive 9-0 start that has it ranked second in the AP Top 25 and third in the USA Today coaches poll.
Jim Boeheim again has the luxury of going eight, nine or even 10 deep into his bench. With versatile forwards like C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Michael Gbinije, Boeheim can adjust his lineup to adapt to almost any situation.
But what is the optimal lineup to score in bunches? What if Boeheim wants to kick up the tempo and put on a press? Who's out there to get a big stop? Dive in to find out.
Not much to say here. This has been the lineup Boeheim has gone with every game, so it is unlikely to change. Grant has performed well off the bench, so some might say he deserves to be out there at the jump instead of Coleman or Christmas.
But Boeheim likes having that game-changing sixth man. He did it with Dion Waiters (who became an NBA lottery pick) and Kris Joseph. Grant gets starter's minutes anyway (26.4 a game, fourth on the team), and he's usually out there to end the game.
And besides, the imposing size of Coleman and Christmas down low can help build an early lead. If they really dominate inside, it can also lead to early foul trouble for the opposition. That's hard to rebound from when a guy like Grant comes off the bench.
This is where Grant comes in and gives that extra scoring punch. These are your five leading scorers, so naturally, this is the most favorable offensive lineup.
Cooney is the resident sharpshooter. Ennis is the distributor who gets everyone their shot where they want it. Fair and Grant are the inside-out forward tandem (Fair lives on elbow jumpers). And Coleman gets his if he gets deep post position and on putbacks on the offensive glass.
Christmas can find himself in this lineup if he takes advantage of a mismatch, but he is generally invisible on the offensive end. Fair, Cooney, Grant and Ennis are the main scoring threats, so they will get the majority of the points.
Fair's gotta get a breather sometime, right? Grant gets the nod over Fair here because he has a little more length on the wing and averages slightly more stocks (steals plus blocks, hat tip to Bill Simmons) than Fair.
Cooney and Ennis are first and second, respectively, on the Orange in steals, so they patrol the top of the zone here. Christmas is the block leader, so he slides in at the 4 to rotate in and protect the rim. Keita, a senior, is the best and most experienced defensive center, so he holds down the paint.
This lineup can't be used for extended stretches, as it will struggle to score, especially if Cooney is having an off night from deep. But if Boeheim needs a couple of key stops in a row, this will likely be the group you see.
Press Your Luck
C—Baye Keita/Rakeem Christmas
If Boeheim wants to speed the opposition up a bit, he will bring out the full-court press. He did as much to Binghamton to squash any thoughts of an upset after the Bearcats got out to an early 11-3 lead. Gbinije takes over for Ennis here, as his length (6'7") and quickness help for traps in the backcourt. Ditto for Fair and Grant.
Keita or Christmas can be used as the last line of defense, but Keita's priority is defense, so he's the first option.
Go Ahead, Throw It Below the Foul Line
Full disclosure, this lineup is gimmicky at best. Jim Boehim most likely wouldn't use it, unless the Orange were starting to run away with one.
But man, this lineup would wreak havoc inside. Teams that aren't prepared for Syracuse's zone could find it impossible to work near the paint with Keita (6'10"), Christmas (6'9") and Coleman (6'9") up front.
And with Fair (6'7") at the top, along with the forwards' ability to cover outside, forget about getting any good looks on the perimeter.
Again, this lineup isn't viable but for a few minutes at best. It could sputter offensively unless Fair or Ennis is really feeling it. But if nothing else, it could make the opposing team say, "Whoa, wait a second..." coming out of a timeout.