Syracuse is the tallest team in the country — it’s one the stat crutches Orange fans have leaned on since the before the season.
This isn’t the most talented team, but it’s big! Perfect for the 2-3 zone. Nobody is scoring on us.
It’s a believable story. Jim Boeheim has lacked a true presence inside the past few years with Tyler Lydon playing in the middle of the zone much of last season. SU fixed that problem, and put tall, long bodies all over the court. It helped the Orange out-rebound every one of its non-conference opponents this season. In ACC play, Syracuse got a rude awakening.
SU’s loss to Notre Dame was ugly to watch. The Irish got everything it wanted with 21 offensive boards, and the Orange lost a winnable game while scoring less than 50 points. Florida State was a different story. The Seminoles were the first team with the size to compete with SU this season (with 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 7-0 Ike Obiagu). In a battle of big on big, Paschal Chukwu fell into the shadows. Koumadje outplayed the SU center and everyone else on the floor, and showed SU fans that its size alone won’t be able to make up for a lack of ability against the conference’s best.
Our first highlight comes in the first possession of the game. It was a long one.
This is one of the three offensive rebounds I could have shown you from Florida State’s minute-long possession to start the game, but they only allow file sizes to get so big on these GIFs. The point is, it wasn’t a good start for Syracuse on the glass. In this particular left-wing three from Phil Cofer, all three players are in position when the shot goes up. I would even say it’s too packed into the lane. Still, Ike Obiagu finds his way over all of them to tip the ball out and keep the possession alive. You could argue he pushes Chukwu to get there, but Paschal wasn’t fighting for the board either. He got position, but didn’t box out. It was just the start of a terrible day inside for SU.
Next up, a Koumadje rebound which leads to two FSU points.
Again, three different Orange players surround Koumadje and watch him tip the rebound to a teammate. Pashcal Chukwu wasn’t in the game at this point, so he had a huge advantage over the tallest SU player (Bourama Sidibe). Sidibe steps up to defend the shot, and it’s then up to Tyus Battle or Oshae Brissett to box out the 7-4 Koumadje. It’s a tall task (pun intended), and results in a tip out which immediately translates to points. This isn’t anyone’s fault on the rebound as much as a result of letting the ball get into the high post. After Braian Angola caught the ball at the free throw line, there were more than a few ways for the possession to go wrong for the Orange.
Speaking of ways the high post hurt the Orange, here’s another one.
In the second half, the Orange learned its lesson from the previous play. Angola catches in the high post, but this time Paschal Chukwu comes up for only a second before falling back down to cover Koumadje. Angola ends up getting a high-percentage shot out of it which Chukwu takes a last-second leap at, and again Brissett and Moyer are left to try and cover Koumadje on the rebound. They don’t. Brissett got caught behind, but Moyer should have put a body on the big man to at least prevent the putback dunk.
Our final highlight came late in regulation, and doesn’t include one of Florida State’s 23 offensive rebounds.
Same story — the ball gets into the high post. Chukwu falls for Angola’s pump fake, and the 2-3 zone is in disarray. Brissett on the right wing for the entirety of the play, and Moyer needed to stop the driving Angola after he got by Chukwu. The result was an easy dish and dunk for the Seminoles.
Size will help the Orange this season. The extraordinary length on the roster will make it hard on teams trying to get inside all season, but it was no problem for Florida State and Koumadje (23 points, eight rebounds and four blocks we didn’t even get into). Saturday’s loss proved that while size can make up for a lot of weaknesses, it can’t make up for bad defense and positioning.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson