Was this a good game from Syracuse? That’s the burning question in Orange Nation after last night’s 76-60 loss to No. 2 Kansas down in Miami. This game was all over the place. Right out of the gate, it seemed like Syracuse was going to hang around for the entirety, but then Kansas began to pull away. But credit SU for fighting back and pulling within seven after being down more than 20. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the loss:
The Defense Is Legit
Holding Kansas to 76 points is no small feat. KU came in averaging 94.5 points per game and was throttling opponents by 33 points a game. The Orange held the Jayhawks to 35 first half points and hovered around that in the second half. The zone gave Kansas fits. Four of five Jayhawk starters committed at least three turnovers, some of which were unforced mental errors, like travels. The one area that Kansas exploited SU’s defense was through the high post lob pass. Good teams in the ACC will continue to do that unless the defense steps up down low. However, that could be problematic, which leads to my next point.
Health Could Doom SU
Syracuse has been blessed with health the last couple of seasons. In the 2015-16 Final Four year, SU ran out the same starting lineup from game one until the semi-final against UNC. Last year, the Orange lost Paschal Chukwu for nearly the entire season, but the depth behind him made the loss minimal, and even felt like an addition by subtraction since Chukwu averaged more fouls than points. Now that Geno Thorpe has left the program, only eight scholarship players are available for Jim Boeheim. There’s a huge red flag with Bourama Sidibe’s knee problems. If the freshman is hampered moving forward, Chukwu doesn’t seem built to play more than 30 minutes a game, and SU can’t afford to go small and play guys like Marek Dolezaj and Matthew Moyer at the five spot. It will certainly be interesting to see how Boeheim molds his lineups if Sidibe’s hobbled knees force him to sit out.
Threes Will Be A Problem
The Orange isn’t going to win many shootouts this year. Syracuse hung with Kansas in the early stages thanks to three triples to start the game. But after that, SU went cold from deep and missed the remainder of its first half threes, while Kansas forced the Orange to take those shots. Syracuse shot a brutal 6-for-27 from behind the arc and are now down to 27 percent for the season. It’s could be a long season unless the Orange can find its groove from deep.
This was overall more promising that degrading. The expectation on the schedule was that this game was going to be a loss, and SU met that expectation and played a little better than some thought it would. A win against UConn on Tuesday would affirm that this team should exceed expectations and will tell a lot about this team.