Their defense is strong, but the frontcourt’s lack of offensive production could be trouble for the Orange later.
Yes, the Orange is 8-0 on the season but that doesn’t mean the team has been flawless. So far, the down-low scoring is nowhere to be found. Syracuse has been led on offense by Trevor Cooney, Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair. In the meantime, Syracuse has almost no offensive production out of its frontcourt. Tuesday night, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita combined for eight points in 52 minutes. The Orange will need much better production out of these three to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Each year, a new center has come to Syracuse with the expectation that he would be the next great big man from Syracuse. A few years ago it was Fab Melo. Then it was Christmas, and last year Coleman was supposed to step in from nearby Jamesville-Dewitt High School. But each one has had problems on the offensive end. But this year it seems to be more of a problem than in the past. Christmas has problems hanging onto the ball down low and bringing down offensive rebounds. Coleman, despite being 6’9″ and 280 pounds, doesn’t go up strong to the basket, instead shying away from contact. And Keita simply doesn’t have an offensive game.
Eight points in 52 minutes from Coleman, Christmas and Keita is nothing new. Against Baylor, the trio scored just nine points in 50 minutes. Against Cal, they combined for eight points in 29 minutes. Coleman and Christmas have both shown promise for the Orange as offensive weapons, but neither has been consistent, and more importantly, neither has had big offensive games against major conference opponents. The Orange takes on Binghamton this weekend before playing St. John’s and Villanova later in non-conference play.
Indiana, St. John’s and Villanova might not be the biggest teams inside, but they all pose bigger threats than teams the Orange played earlier in the year like Fordham and Colgate. In the upcoming games against St. John’s and Villanova, it is important for the big men to perform better and at least provide a viable option for the Orange in the post.
For all the great outside play by Ennis and Cooney, the area around the basket should get more open for the Syracuse bigs to make plays and score some points for the Orange. Eventually, teams will start to double Cooney, Ennis or Fair and the double teamer will come from the big men: Coleman, Christmas or Baye. In these situations, the trio of big men needs to be able to make teams pay by going up strong and putting the ball in the basket.
Against Indiana, all the weaknesses of the Syracuse centers were exposed. Coleman tried to adjust to contact and contort his body as if he were a guard. Christmas had trouble hanging on the ball and brought the ball down after getting an offensive rebound instead of going straight up. And Baye just couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. Yes, each player brings something on defense, but it is just a matter of time before the offensive shortcomings down low catch up to the Orange.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg