Syracuse basketball still has two regular season games and the ACC Tournament to prove it deserves a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but there is also a very real possibility SU plays in the NIT for the second straight season. If that is the case, the Orange won’t be playing the same basketball it has for the past four months. The tournament is experimenting with rule changes for the third time in four years, and they could change Syracuse’s strategy and strength if it plays in the NIT.
Three-point line extended to FIBA distance
The NIT will be making threes a bit harder to hit this year. 1 foot and 8 inches harder, to be exact. The NIT will extend it’s three-point line to 22 feet, 1.75 inches, the standard used by FIBA for international play. Putting the basket any further away from Syracuse shooters is always a bad thing, as the Orange shooting has fallen off this season. Nobody on SU shoots at better than 35 percent from behind the arc, and the team shoots less than 31 percent as a whole. Syracuse has a difficult enough time getting past the perimeter at its current distance – it doesn’t need any more challenges.
Free throw lane extended to NBA width
The NIT will also change the size of the lane, extending it from 12 feet to the NBA’s 16 feet wide. This could be a huge help for the Orange on defense. In the 2-3 zone, the bottom corner defenders float coverage between a player in the post and a player on either the wing or in the corner. A wider paint means that post player has to set up further from the basket, and the defender has less distance to go between rotations.
The change shouldn’t have much of a negative effect on the SU offense, as most of the Orange offense comes from the perimeter and when the Orange big men do score it doesn’t come from post moves.
Four 10-minute quarters
In a change women’s college basketball has already made, the NIT will end 20-minute halves and instead use four, 10-minute quarters. This change could be Syracuse’s biggest advantage if it does play in the NIT this season. With three players in the top 10 in the country in minutes per game, Syracuse’s shallow roster needs as many breaks as it can get. Longer timeouts between quarters will help Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett keep fresh throughout the course of a game.
Shot clock resets to 20 seconds on offensive rebounds
The most experimental change in the NIT this year involves the shot clock. After an offensive rebound, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of the 30-second shot clock to start the possession. Syracuse hasn’t taken good shots in plenty of 30-second possessions this season, so cutting SU’s time to find a good look can’t help.
Hopefully, Syracuse basketball won’t have to become accustomed to new NCAA rules and will play in the NCAA Tournament in March. If the Orange does miss the cut, though, the rule changes in the NIT could change how strong Syracuse’s chances are in the consolation tournament.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson