Syracuse Basketball: One Pressing Concern for Each Syracuse Starter
Now that we know DaJuan Coleman's surgery will shelve him for the remainder of the year, the Syracuse basketball rotation is now one man shorter.
Jerami Grant will likely step in as a full-time starter for the Orange (18-0, 5-0 ACC). This is nothing new for Grant, who has been starting since Coleman was sidelined with the injury in late December.
With the toughest part of Syracuse's schedule just beginning (seven out of final 13 games on the road), Jim Boeheim's crew will need to remain as focused as ever to get through the gauntlet with minimal blemishes.
Of course, with an undefeated team ranked second in the country, there is little to be done besides pick nits. But no player is perfect, and each player has areas where he could improve.
So what has been most troubling about the Orange's play heading into the ACC home stretch? Read on to uncover the main concern for each of Boeheim's starters.
Tyler Ennis: How Will He Handle a True Road Evironment?
Make no mistake, Tyler Ennis has exceeded any Syracuse fan's wildest expectations. He's played just about as well as any player in the ACC.
The kid hasn't given you much to be concerned about (except for the possibility he will take his talents...well, you know).
He has shown that he doesn't get rattled, but most of the time, he has been in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. Syracuse's three legit road games this year have been at St. John's (in the Garden, which is always full of Orange fans), at a mostly empty Cassell Coliseum while the Virginia Tech students were on break and at Boston College, where "let's go Orange" chants could be heard as Syracuse pulled away from the Eagles.
So what will happen when the Orange get to the Pete to face Pittsburgh? Or when they head to Charlottesville to face Virginia? Or when they enter the mother of all home-court advantages, Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Rest assured there will be no pro-Orange chants in any of those buildings. Ennis' hand will have to be as steady as ever to escape those madhouses with victories.
Trevor Cooney: The Shooting Slump
Trevor Cooney started the season white-hot from long distance. He was hanging around 50 percent from deep before ACC play started.
Since then, Cooney is shooting just 24.4 percent (11-of-45) on threes in conference play. Cooney recently studied some film to see what was causing him his recent struggles. He detailed what he found to Mike Waters of Syracuse.com: "There's a few little things, but really, there have been games where I got good shots and just didn't make them. I know I'm going to make those."
Cooney went on to say that he and coach Gerry McNamara, a pretty good Syracuse shooter in his own right, have worked on a few mechanical issues in practice. Cooney found he wasn't squaring up correctly when he got into his shooting motion. He and McNamara worked on footwork and making sure Cooney's upper body is squared to the basket.
Syracuse needs Cooney's shooting touch to stretch defenses, that is no secret. If he gets back to torching the nets like he was early on, it should open things up for Syracuse's forwards in the middle.
C.J. Fair: Trying to Do Too Much
C.J. Fair is without question the leader of this team.
But sometimes, he tries to do everything himself on offense, which results in turnovers that he doesn't need to make.
Whether it is trying to drive into two or three defenders, or just plain being heedless with the ball on the perimeter, it is all adding up to Fair giving it away 2.9 times a game. That is by far the highest pace of his Syracuse career. In similar minutes last year, Fair only turned it over 1.6 times a night.
Of course, part of that can be chalked up to Fair not being the focal point of the offense with guys like Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland in uniform. But he was still the team's leading scorer.
Fair's occasional carelessness hasn't undermined the team's play by any stretch. He has more often than not come up clutch when the team needs him. But all it takes is one inattentive possession late in a game to turn a win into a loss.
Jerami Grant: The Mid-Range Game
Most of Jerami Grant's points are going to come around the rim. We know that, and so do opposing teams. Opponents therefore have been inviting Grant to take the jump shot when he catches the ball in the high post.
His shot has been improving, but he still doesn't look totally comfortable taking it. If he continues to consistently hit the mid-range J, it will give him more opportunities to get by his man as defenders inch closer to him to contest the shot.
It would also open up passing lanes a little bit if his defender isn't sagging off. This would allow Grant and either Fair or Rakeem Christmas to work a high-low game that would make opposing coaches rip their hair out.
Rakeem Christmas: Will He Stay Aggressive?
This has been the knock on Christmas since he arrived on campus.
He has had a knack for mentally checking out of games from time to time, but it has been less apparent this year. Christmas had 10 points and the game-clinching rebound in Syracuse's win over Pitt.
But how long will it last? With Coleman out for good, Christmas will be getting more run in the middle for the Orange. If he continues to give Boeheim good minutes, it will make Syracuse that much harder to stop.
With so much attention being paid to Fair and Grant, Christmas sometimes gets overlooked by the opposition. If he keeps working to get good inside position, his teammates will find him for easy buckets (he's shooting 74 percent from the field this season). If defenses have to consciously try to stop him, that will create more opportunities for Fair and Grant inside, as well as Cooney on the wing.