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Three Biggest Keys to Syracuse’s Success in the ACC Season

These are the most important dynamics for the Orange.

One word to describe the team’s start to its 2014-2015 campaign? Underwhelming. As the Orange finishes up the non-conference part of its schedule against Long Beach St. and Cornell, fans should look out for the following things:

Trevor Cooney’s Role

Through the first 11 games of the season, Cooney’s role has grown substantially.  Starting as the scapegoat for the team’s shooting woes, the SU has used the marksman as the primary ball handler in multiple games.  Cooney’s willingness to drive has provided the Orange offense with a spark of late.  Fans should look to see how Boeheim elects to use Cooney in his offense.  Since a miserable showing against St. John’s, Cooney has scored 25, 17, and 20 points in the team’s most recent three games, including 50 percent from three.  Unlike the rest of the team, Cooney also doesn’t turn the ball over as often.

Taking Care of the Ball

The Achilles heel for the Orange sofar has been turnovers.  After averaging just nine turnovers per game last season (fifth-best in college basketball), the Orange are turning the ball over 13.5 times per game this year.  Led by freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph (3.6 per game) and Chris McCullough (2.6), the team is practically handing its opponents points.  This is why Boeheim has turned to Cooney for the ball handling recently, as the junior is averaging only one turnover per game.  When a team is scoring just under 70 points on average, every possession becomes valuable and the team needs to be careful with the ball on the offensive end of the floor.  In SU’s four losses, they have averaged 15 turnovers a game; it is no secret as to why the Orange sits at 7-4.

Crafting the Rotation

Boeheim is well known for using a short bench through conference play.  However, by this point in the season, the rotation is pretty set.  With just two games left, the Orange’s rotation is still in the works.  Joseph (33.4 minutes per game), Cooney (35.3), McCullough (32.1), and Rakeem Christmas (29.5) are the guaranteed starters.  The fifth starting spot has bounced between Michael Gbinije (27.8), Tyler Roberson (22.1), and BJ Johnson (18.1) in the last few weeks, and Ron Patterson (11.7) has fought for minutes as well.  While an eight-man rotation isn’t out of the question, it will be interesting to watch how the coaching staff distributes its minutes as non-conference play closes.  It could provide insight into the team’s future, especially when the starters get into foul trouble.

Posted: Jason Weingold

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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