Something has been missing from the SU offense this year, and well, it has been the offense. The Orange has had trouble scoring points. In the past couple of years, Jim Boeheim has had players he can turn to to come off the bench and score points almost on demand: James Southerland and Dion Waiters. Both were highly productive scorers and outside shooters. This year, that’s missing, even before DaJuan Coleman was lost for the season and the Orange had Jerami Grant coming off the bench.
Grant is a different player, obviously. He is super athletic and although he has made strides in his offensive game, he still doesn’t have the confidence to shoot or make jump shots with regularity. That said, he isn’t exactly a polished post player either, and he will drive at almost any chance he gets. However, Grant provided a bit of a spark off the bench before being inserted into the starting lineup. He has high energy, grabs rebounds, and is usually good for a highlight block or put-back dunk each game. Bottom line, Grant is not the same player as Southerland and Waiters. Grant is not a shooting threat rather he is more just a super-athlete.
That is what has been missing from the Orange this year. The team needs a high-volume scorer off the bench. Maybe that scorer could have been Tyler Roberson or BJ Johnson, who could come in for a stretch and give the Orange some points. But the freshmen were never given the chance once conference play started, something that shouldn’t be a surprise given how Jim Boeheim has handled freshmen in the past. The few exceptions include Ennis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Coleman and Dwayne Washington.
This problem was really inevitable because the Orange didn’t have a Southerland- or Waiters-type scorer, even when Grant was coming off the bench. Michael Gbinije didn’t become a go-to player off the bench, whether that is because he isn’t comfortable with the team yet or just isn’t getting minutes. Tyler Roberson, BJ Johnson and Ron Patterson haven’t gotten significant playing time since non-conference play in December. At this point in the season, it is impossible to find another source of scoring, so it will be up to the players already in the rotation to make the most of the opportunities they have and get more points on the board for the Orange.
Who will that player be? The best bet is probably Trevor Cooney. He needs to bounce back for the Orange to make a run through the tournament. Cooney has not played very well since conference play began, but has had some games where he was on point, notably against Notre Dame. However, since then, Cooney has scored in double digits in just two of six games, and both times he had just 11 points. If Cooney can give the Orange 15 to 18 points a night, that might be enough to make up for the lack of scoring off the bench. If the Orange can find another source of scoring, that could be enough to push SU to a deep tournament run.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg