The 2017 portion of Syracuse basketball’s season ended about as well as Orange fans could have hoped. SU is at 12-2 with losses to only Kansas and a very talented St. Bonaventure team. The Orange has already picked up its first ACC win, and is in a much better position to start 2018 than when it started 2017. Syracuse is going into the new year with Top 25 votes, but the meat of its schedule is still ahead and as tough as any in the country. There’s still plenty for the Orange to improve on if it wants to compete in the ACC, and coming through on these New Year’s resolutions could get SU back to where its fans want it to be.
Stop turning the ball over
*Stares at Frank Howard*
At least through the non-conference schedule, this has easily been the best season of Frank Howard’s collegiate career. He is blowing away his previous bests in points, assists and steals per game, and in the ACC opener tied the 14 starts he had all of last season. He has solidified himself as SU’s point guard for the season, but he still needs to do better.
Another stat Howard is more than doubled from last season to this one is turnovers. In the Orange’s 14 games, he has turned the ball over at least four times in 10. Four times, including the ACC opener against Virginia Tech, he had more turnovers than assists. He is playing more minutes and running the Orange offense which naturally leads to more turnovers, but Howard still needs to clean it up. Without a Michael Gbinije-type savior in sight and Howard Washington getting comfortable in his seat on the bench, Jim Boeheim doesn’t have another option.
End Cardiac Cuse
Syracuse’s uncanny ability to pull itself back into any game is thrilling and fun to watch, but it’s not good for the Orange. Nobody will ever forget the epic comeback the Orange had against Virginia in the Elite Eight, but just about every other case of come-from-behind victory SU has had was in a game which the Orange fell down to the competition, not stepped up.
There are plenty of signs that this year’s Syracuse team is better than last year’s, but it doesn’t have the same comeback potential. The full-court press can still help late in games, but this team can’t shoot itself back into games like that one did. SU can’t afford to fall behind early against anyone, no matter how fun the comeback efforts have been.
Make more threes
I hate myself for the second half of this sentence, but Syracuse needs to shoot its shot in 2018. The Orange has gotten by in the first half of the year shooting under 20 threes per game and making just five, but interior scoring won’t come as easily in conference play. SU needs to be able to stretch out defenses, and right now Tyus Battle is the only player on the roster who has that ability.
The SU which wins without the three is a better option than the one which lived and died by it in previous years, but neither gets much higher than the middle of the pack in the ACC. Syracuse can make the NCAA Tournament without having perimeter shooting in its arsenal, but the next step toward the Top 25 is finding consistent shooters somewhere on this roster.
Syracuse basketball is in a better spot than most thought it would be to start 2018, but the biggest challenges are just beginning. If the Orange makes good on these resolutions while keeping up what it has done well, it will be a tough beat for any team in the country.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson