Syracuse needs a win badly, and today’s matchup with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will serve as a tune-up before the team’s toughest game to date – the Villanova Wildcats on the road. The coaching staff has a ton of problems to work through, so here is what to look for in today’s afternoon matchup:
Kaleb Joseph’s Role:
The Orange’s newest freshman phenom point guard certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations so far. Following in the footsteps of Tyler Ennis isn’t easy, but Joseph definitely should be able to handle the starting point guard duties for the Orange. However, in last week’s contest against the Red Storm, Joseph was stapled to the bench. He played only 19 minutes after averaging 37 in the previous chunk of games. Joseph received a ton of attention and criticism from the coaching staff on the bench, and ultimately the freshman just needs to stop trying to do too much with the ball. He has tried to shoot too many threes, and has turned the ball over instead of facilitating the offense. Joseph isn’t to blame entirely – he is a true freshman, after all – but he needs to step up his game as the only true point guard on the roster. Seeing how long Joseph’s leash is against the Bulldogs today will be a good indicator of how much trust Boeheim has regained in his starting point guard.
Reliance on the Three Ball:
The Orange’s putrid 3-point shooting has been well documented on the Fizz. But, today, it is important to see how the Orange uses the three. Instead of chucking up shot after shot from behind the arc (17 attempts in each of the losses to Cal and Michigan, and 22 against St. John’s), the Orange needs to use the three-pointer sparingly. The inside game has powered SU’s offense to date, so shooting 22 three pointers and only hitting three is absolutely unacceptable. Tech features three guards that will challenge SU from the perimeter, but lacks size. The Bulldogs have a seven footer that averages less than ten minutes a game; so exploiting the team’s lack of size on the interior will be a key to winning. Whengetting the ball in the paint is working, there is no reason to shoot as many threes as the Orange already has, so establishing an interior game tomorrow will be essential to the team’s success.
Stretching the Bench:
In close games, Boeheim is famous for shortening his bench to seven, sometimes even six, players. In other non-conference games, fans get a chance to see what some of the other players of the roster can do. Look for BJ Johnson, Ron Patterson, and Tyler Roberson to get some big minutes today if the Orange take a double-digit lead. The three are fighting for playing time, and Boeheim may use today’s contest as a preliminary test for the Villanova game. Johnson and Roberson are only averaging 19 minutes a game and Patterson only 10. The trio should see increased minutes today, and if any want to make it into the rotation, they need to contribute heavily.
Posted: Jason Weingold