Syracuse basketball is all out of sorts. Despite incredibly high expectations, including high praise from the ever stoic Jim Boeheim, the Orange are off to a poor start. There is no where around that. Syracuse fell to UConn, who entered the game 3-4 with some ugly losses, 52-50 in a slugfest at the Garden. The teams both shot in the low to mid 20s in the first half and the game finished with 102 total points.
So what has gone wrong? What went wrong on Monday night? Let’s start with the guy who is supposed to be the best player on the floor, Tyler Lydon. The sophomore finished 1-7 from the field and posted a whopping 7 total points. The Orange need him to be so much better than that, but more importantly they need him to recognize that he is the best player on the floor. After the game Boeheim said that Lydon took 7 shots and passed up on ten more. “We would like him to take 17 shots,” Boeheim said. Lydon passed up way too many decent looks and put his guards in a tough situation.
With that said, we come to the second major issue plaguing this team right now. The Orange’s point guards have struggled big time in recent games. Frank Howard went 0-9 from the floor on Monday and John Gillon went 0-4. The one bright spot at that position is that they combined for only two turnovers. However, there passing was far from crisp and their play didn’t open many looks for Syracuse’s big shooters.
To the big shooters now, when they did get open looks, they didn’t hit them. Here, I don’t really have a solution to offer other than Andrew White (4-15) and Tyus Battle (2-6) just have to hit more shots. What else is there to say?
But now we come to the root of the problem. Syracuse seems to be lacking leadership on the floor, particuarly on offense. Syracuse can’t lean on the calm presence of Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney this season. There doesn’t seem to be a player who is ready to step up and be “that guy” that the Orange need when they are in desperate need of some offense. Syracuse instead seems to panic when shots aren’t falling and they get themselves into bad spots on offense. There is now way of knowing who that is going to be. Many thought it would be Tyler Lydon or Andrew White III but that role is often best served from the point guard position. And it certainly hasn’t come from Frank Howard or John Gillon.
Syracuse still has time before the games start to really “matter” but the Orange have a lot of work to do to avoid racking up too many loses in a realtively weak non-conference schedule. Monday’s loss is a tough pill to swallow.