Last year, Syracuse lit it up in the NCAA Tournament thanks to its superb effort on the defensive end. After¬†finding out SU landed a 3-seed in the tourney¬†CJ Fair was asked if the Orange could thrive with its defense again.
‚ÄúOur offense isn‚Äôt going to be there every night, and our defense is our advantage. If we play the defense we are capable of playing, I think we can definitely make another Final Four run and go from there.‚Äù
Opponents shot over 50% against Syracuse just four times all season. Jim Boeheim has reiterated on multiple occasions that¬†SU‚Äôs struggles most often come to the offensive end. Fair said the team is just trying to stick to what they‚Äôve done all year:
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think we are trying to do too much. Our offense just feeds off our defense.‚Äù
He‚Äôs absolutely right. The Orange is at its best when its out on the break with numbers getting close, high-percentage looks. Some Orange teams in the past have worked well in half court sets. Not for this Syracuse team. SU works at its best when turnovers are created and steals are made. After solid back-to-back shooting outings to close the regular season,¬†Fair was an abysmal 3 of 16 from the floor against NC State. Boeheim referenced how Syracuse earned a 3-seed.
“We win with balance. We won 27 games shooting it the way we are shooting it.‚Äù
The balance we saw against Florida State in Tallassee¬†is exactly what he‚Äôs referring too. But again, Fair makes a strong case what happens defensively dictates SU‚Äôs finish to this season.
Thursday¬†afternoon the Orange takes on a Western Michigan unit that just beat up Toledo and tallied 98 points. The Broncos carry a streaky 3-point shooter in David Brown and big man Shayne Whittington who‚Äôs averaged close to a double-double (16 ppg/9 rpg). They haven‚Äôt been challenged consistently like Syracuse has but WMU has some offensive options. The Orange defense needs to make a stand in Buffalo. Without it a once magical season will turn quickly into a pumpkin.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen