Syracuse basketball’s performance in the nonconference this season has many without hope and even more asking what has gone wrong. At 7-5, it will take an extraordinary turnaround to get the Orange into the NCAA Tournament, and the Orange will have to play better than it has in any of its performances this season against a stacked ACC to get back into the conversation. Even then, the hopes of Syracuse being considered a contender on the national stage are over. A lot needs to change for Syracuse to get its season back on track, and it starts with Frank Howard.
We talk a lot about the complexity of Jim Boeheim’s defense, and with good reason. The 2-3 zone requires all five players on the floor to be on the same page, but defense isn’t the only thing you need to win basketball games. Syracuse’s offense leans on its point guard play, and this year the Orange hasn’t had it. Frank Howard has been a big part of that letdown. Every successful year Syracuse has had it has been led by a strong point guard. In 2014, it was Tyler Ennis. The year before that: Michael Carter-Williams. Gerry McNamara. Eric Devendorf. Sherman Douglas. Syracuse’s best and most successful teams have always had a point guard to run the offense (with the exception of 2003, but the Orange had an exceptional player to fill the hole in Carmelo Anthony). Frank Howard has not been that player. He wasn’t last season when Jim Boeheim put Michael Gbinije in his place, and he isn’t now.
Frank Howard doesn’t have a good game against a good team yet this season. Here are his stat lines in Syracuse’s five losses:
- South Carolina: 3-7 FG, 10 Points, 3 Assists, 1 Turnover
- @ Wisconsin: 2-8 FG, 7 PTS, 2 AST, 1 TO
- UConn: 0-9 FG, 3 PTS, 3 AST, 2 TO
- Georgetown: 2-6 FG, 4 PTS, 4 AST, 6 TO
- St. John’s: 2-9 FG, 2 PTS, 2 AST, 4 TO
Against every team worth showing up against, Frank Howard hasn’t showed up. He has four games with double-digit assists on the season, but they’ve come against the weakest of opponents.
Last year, Jim Boeheim put Frank Howard on the bench in favor of Michael Gbinije, who had never run an offense in his collegiate career. The move turned out to be the right one, and now it’s become apparent that it was for more reasons than one. Sometimes he looks like the passer who can put Syracuse’s scorers in a position to win games, but he has yet to play with any of the consistency needed to be more than the off-the-bench guard he was last season. It’s ironic that in a year where Jim Boeheim was supposed to have the most options in recent memory, he can’t find someone to take Frank Howard off the court.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson