As the season has progressed, freshman Buddy Boeheim has become more and more of a focal point for Syracuse‚Äôs offense. He‚Äôs the best shooter on the team and can single-handedly create a much needed spark at any moment. But for every game that he lights up the scoreboard, there‚Äôs a game where he chalks up a mediocre stat sheet. Of course, he wasn‚Äôt expected to be one of SU‚Äôs best players, especially in his freshman season. But recently, when Buddy plays well, SU wins. When he doesn‚Äôt, it‚Äôs usually a blowout loss.
Look no further then Saturday‚Äôs game against Duke. Boeheim scored just two points as SU fell to the Blue Devils. Obviously, the Orange were underdogs going into the game, but stormed out to a first half lead before faltering down the stretch. Players like Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett must be more efficient for SU to win. But adding a couple of threes in clutch moments from Boeheim could have made a difference as well.
The game before Duke was a Syracuse blowout win of top-25 Louisville. Boeheim poured on 14 points while knocking down half of his shots, including four threes. Unlike guys like Elijah Hughes and Battle, Boeheim doesn‚Äôt chuck up countless shots throughout the game. He‚Äôs a smart, efficient scorer. Of course, he doesn‚Äôt carry the pressure of Battle or Hughes either.
Without that pressure, Boeheim can keep his mind clear while taking good, open looks. But there are times when Syracuse needs Boeheim to be more assertive and look to score. He‚Äôs calling his shot more as the season goes on, and his confidence will only grow as he ages. Unfortunately, SU needs an extremely confident, knock down shooter right now.
Four games ago, against Boston College, Boeheim was a big reason the Orange won 67-56. Buddy and Battle hoisted the team upon their shoulders, and marched to a commanding victory. But just one game earlier against Florida State, Boeheim scored just six points as Syracuse fell in the Dome 80-62.
Clearly, there‚Äôs a trend here. When Buddy plays well, and demands the ball, Syracuse plays better and usually wins. But when he‚Äôs complacent and lacks a shooter‚Äôs mentality, the Orange often fall in blowout fashion. It‚Äôs a lot to ask a freshman to grasp control of the offense. It‚Äôs also tough to ask proven veteran scorers like Battle and Hughes to give some of their shots to Boeheim. But usually when Buddy is hot, so is SU.