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Shooting 3-for-3: Three Places for Syracuse to Improve with Three Games to Play

SU is #2 in the country, but there are three ways it can become more dominant.

Mel Evans/AP Photo

Syracuse has won seven straight since its only loss of the season, and yet Orange fans may be worried the squad hasn’t been quite as dominant as earlier in the season. SU has won games in different ways recently: running St. John’s off the floor, pulling away from Connecticut and Rutgers late, and grinding out wins over Georgetown and Louisville.

The ability to win different types of games bodes well for SU’s chances in March, but it may be even more important to be playing its best at the right time. With only three regular season games left to work out the kinks, let’s take a look at what the Orange should focus on to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders in March.

  • Improve the rebounding.

It’s SU’s most obvious flaw, and Jim Boeheim hasn’t been shy about saying so.  Cleaning the glass might be the one dynamic most closely tied to this team’s performance. Syracuse has been able to win this season despite being outrebounded, but needed late game heroics against Georgetown and West Virginia when the Orange was outworked by more than 15 boards. SU’s most impressive performance of the last month was an 85-67 win over Connecticut. In that game, Syracuse won the rebounding battle 27-24. It’s probably no coincidence that the Orange’s best rebounding performance during this stretch also led to its most impressive win.

  • Get the three-point shooters going again.

Brandon Triche is second among SU’s rotation players in 3-point shooting percentage. He’s also third on the team in scoring, but hasn’t reached double figures once this month. In February, Triche is just 2-15 from beyond the arc. His second half minutes have been cut recently in favor of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, but at some point the Orange is going to need Brandon to come up big. It would be comforting to see him get his stroke back before the regular season ends.

The other x-factor behind the arc is is the nearly forgotten James Southerland.  Boeheim made it known early this season that Southerland would get a few minutes every game, and if he could hit shots, he could earn more minutes.  The problem is, it’s been a while since Southerland has done significant damage from deep. Once considered the best sharp shooter on this team, he has gone 1-16 from three in the last seven games.

Wednesday night could be a big night for Southerland, since he should see some real minutes (he’s played 5 minutes or less in three of the last four). Knowing how much more explosive the offense is when Southerland is hitting from deep, it’s worth giving him substantial time in these last games to see if he can work his way out of this cold streak.

  • Get Dion going on offense.

Waiters’ scoring can be the difference between a good Orange team and the unstoppable force we have seen at times this season. During SU’s most dominant stretch of the season from late-December until the Notre Dame loss, Waiters scored at least 12 points for eight straight games. But he’s reached double figures in only two of his last seven. If the Orange is going to beat other top teams in March, it needs Dion at the top of his game. Now would be a good time for him to start heating up again.

Posted: Steve Neikam

7 Comments on this Post

  1. orangeskin

    Good article. You have definitely pointed out the three areas of concern going forward. Rebounding is all about effort. RU stayed in Sunday’s game because SU played like they really weren’t into the game for most of it. When crunch time rolled around, SU got to the rebounds and loose balls. I didn’t like the effort for most of the game, but the SU players need to realize that the effort has to be there for 40 minutes. Now if Baye had better hands, we’d probably get about 3 more rebounds per game. He doesn’t so everyone has to crash the boards. I’ve thought the guards have gotten much better about crashing the boards since the WVU game. As for Dion, it seems like he is being defended differently. Opponents won’t let him shoot off the catch like they were earlier in the season. Really Dion needs to move the ball quicker, and with a quick pass back, he might get more open looks. Since Dion is so good at getting to the hoop, it seems like the big men don’t work as hard to set him ball screens. He needs them though. When he does penetrate, all opponents are playing him to take it all the way to the basket. An example of that was against RU when he went 1-3 into the lane and missed a layup despite having a wide open Scoop in the corner with his feet set. JB pulled Dion and had a quick discussion with him about that mistake. Look for Dion to dish more in the future unless he’s got a clearer look at the basket. With James, he needs to trust his shot. It looks to me as if he’s second guessing himself, which is leading to the misses. He needs to get going, and will. He needs to shoot over guys instead of constantly trying to drive to the hoop. James, your handle isn’t as good as Kris’ and his isn’t that great. Please shoot, rebound and defend. As for Brandon, his problems are all psychological at this point. He missed badly on a shot he always makes against RU and had two horrible three point attempts against L’ville. He needs to trust his shot too, but Brandon is a thoughtful kid, and he’s pressing a bit. He needs to lighten up and let it go. He also needs more minutes, but that’s tough when Scoop and Dion are playing so well. So, he presses himself when he shouldn’t. I thought he could use a sports psychologist, but at this point he needs to do what he can to get himself going again. He made two big FTs late on Sunday. Maybe that will propel him. He’s certainly good enough, but he needs to shoot it when he gets a good look and not force it. This team has what it takes to win it all, but they all have to execute and buy into whatever role the coaches want them to handle.

  2. Definitely agree with everything said in this article. I’d even add the fact that it would be nice to get the freshmen at least a little bit more into the fold going down the stretch. All the talk about how we can go 10 deep is starting to become a fantasy. I don’t really understand what JB is doing with Rakeem Christmas. He keeps X-Mas in the starting lineup every game but he only lasts the first 2 minutes and then he goes to the bench for the rest of the game. I don’t really see the purpose in that. Either start C.J. Fair from the get go or try to get Christmas at least 7-10 min. Fair’s logged a lot of minutes lately it would be nice to rest him up a bit. I want to see Michael Carter-Williams getting more PT as well. I think MCW could really help us out, he’s a good passer and seems to be a confident PG for a Freshman. Rather than make Dion run the point when Scoop comes out, put MCW in for a little bit and see what he can do. When he gets legit PT (see the St. John’s game) he can do good things. Truthfully the one guy I’d like to see a little less of is Baye Keita. I think he’s the only person on the team who actually has regressed from last year. When Keita goes in he literally adds nothing to the game. He’s too wiry still, and he falls for pump/head fakes all the time. He can’t handle good opposing bigs and he can’t catch the ball to score. Fab Melo has been awesome, just keep him in until he gets in foul trouble, then I’d actually use Christmas as the backup. Still give Keita some minutes but maybe even less than X-Mas. James Southerland and Brandon Triche do need to get it going, we are a great offensive team if them and Dion Waiters can add shooting. And one last thing… I can’t STAND IT when Kris Joseph tries to dribble drive. KRIS I LOVE YOU DUDE BUT YOU CAN’T DRIBBLE! Wait for your shot and keep attacking the rim but don’t dribble when your beyond the 3 point line because it almost always results in a TO.

  3. great article, the one SU blog that actually knows the sport and is not just nitpikcing the heck out of this team. Think about how stupid this comment sounds- SU is not elite- how does that even make sense, they are 27-1! most likely would be undefeated if they had melo and besides 3-4 games this season with him everygame has been blowouts, even on the road. People really need to put things in perspective and not let a few recent games define theyre season (especially since some were in tough hostile enviroments where if it were uk or unc it would be impressive) take out the road games with minimal su fans(ul/ ru) and games without melo, SU has been pretty much dominant the entire season….think about that

  4. AnaheimOrange

    “KRIS I LOVE YOU DUDE BUT YOU CAN’T DRIBBLE!”

    Man, did Kevin nail it here!

  5. Ha ha thank you AnaheimOrange glad you agree!

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