Since starting conference play with four straight loses, Syracuse has pulled out eight wins in its last nine games. From dead in the water to a middle seed in the NCAA tournament, it has been one heck of a turnaround to Syracuse’s season. Of course, the return of Jim Boeheim has played a major role in the resurgence of Syracuse, but there are other factors that have contributed to Syracuse’s 8-5 conference record.
The Steady Improvement of Malachi Richardson
Looking at Malachi Richardson’s numbers do not show how much the freshman has improved over the course of the past month. From his first game, it was clear that Richardson was a talented shooter and incredibly athletic. However, in recent weeks, Richardson has looked a more complete player. While still shooting at a high percentage from downtown, Richardson has shown great court vision and awareness during Syracuse’s hot streak. The last three games, Richardson is averaging 4.7 assists, well above his season average. Over the last five games, he is averaging just over one turnover per game, having not committed a turnover in the last two games. Whether it is Boeheim’s coaching or just a natural progression, Malachi Richardson has shown steady improvement and has become a stronger, more well-rounded player.
The Emergence of Frank Howard
For most of this season, the story was about two freshmen, Richardson and Tyler Lydon. Now, the third freshman in the class of 2015 has emerged as an important part of the team. Frank Howard has seen a drastic spike in his minutes. Howard has completely supplanted Kaleb Joseph as the back-up point guard. Howard’s increased minutes have allowed both Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney to play fewer minutes and has extended the Syracuse rotation from six to seven. Depth has been, in recent years a major issue for the Orange. While this team cannot be classified as deep, it is deeper now than it was at the beginning of the season, and that is, in large part, thanks to Frank Howard. During this Syracuse hot streak, particularly over the past five games, Howard has extended the Syracuse bench that Boeheim might have found his starting point guard for next season.
Of course there are other reasons Syracuse has been able to turn this season around. The play of MIchael Gbinije has been consistently strong and Boeheim has gotten strong contributions from Tyler Lydon, and at times, DaJuan Coleman.
The Orange look to make it nine out of ten when they play Louisville on Wednesday night before returning home for a battle with old Big East foe, Pitt, on Saturday.