It’s almost the new year, which means ACC play for the Syracuse men’s basketball team is right around the corner. Conference play for the Orange this season begins on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech. With the Orange’s 13-game non-conference schedule in the rearview, let’s see how Syracuse performed to start the year.
Before the season began, I’m sure fans would have been thrilled with the idea of an 11-2 start to the season for Jim Boeheim’s team. The only bad loss came last week against St. Bonaventure in one of the worst SU offensive performances in recent memory. Given that Syracuse ranks 16th in the nation in RPI, that 11-2 record still looks pretty good.
But how excited should fans really be?
A few things concern me for Syracuse heading into ACC play. First off, the Orange offense is just plain terrible at times. What’s going to happen when Syracuse gets cold against teams like Virginia and Florida State next month? Right now, SU is the 274th best shooting team in the country at 42.8 percent. You know who is tied with them? Eastern Michigan. The team that scored a whopping 47 points on Wednesday in the Dome.
Syracuse’s three-point percentage is getting better, but it’s still not even at 30%. There’s no denying that SU isn’t the most offensively gifted team on the planet, and everyone knows that. The good news is that the defense is much improved from last season. Will it be enough against elite competition? I don’t think so.
Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett have been phenomenal. Each one of them has met expectations and then some this season. The other guys? Not so much. The key to conference play will be finding 20 plus points from players outside of SU’s big three.
Even though there is so much concern on the offensive end, that hasn’t stopped SU from winning games early on. The Orange had a big win in New York City against UCONN and followed that up with a thrilling comeback against Georgetown. The talent is there at times, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
That’s why I’m still holding out to see just how good this Syracuse team is. I thought they’d have a good non-conference record, but I didn’t think the offense would be so abysmal. The start of ACC play will help us set true expectations for this year’s team.