It’s easy to jump to conclusions after beating up on mid major teams and it still remains to be seen whether Syracuse is legit good this year. But, one thing is for sure: the Orange are WAY more fun to watch.
When Syracuse gets going, like it did in a 97-64 romp over Bucknell Saturday afternoon, it’s a refreshingly quick and instinctive product, unlike we’ve seen from recent SU teams.
A lot of the credit goes to SU’s cerebral leader, JG3. He didn’t fill it up like his 24 point performance against Seattle. But, Girard, who finished with 12 points on 4-6 shooting, may have been even more impressive because he had six assists and just one turnover Saturday in 21 minutes.
He pushes the pace when they can, makes smart decisions and is flat out infectious out there. The guy celebrates harder for his teammates than himself when a big play happens.
“Joe played great at the point again,” Coach Boeheim said.
The freshman point guard was still smiling ear-to-ear after the game.
“That was an amazing game. I don’t even know if there is any negatives to even say,” Joe Girard said. “Basketball is a lot fun when you get out in transistion…we made it look pretty fun today.”
What might get overshadowed is how helpful the zone was in getting the Orange out in space Saturday. SU held Bucknell to 25% shooting. They forced 23 turnovers and had a staggering 37 points off turnovers and 28 fast break points.
Coach Boeheim was quick to point to the defense being the key after the game.
The assists is perhaps the biggest difference in the Syracuse offense so far this year.
That stat says it all. Yes, it’s partially because Syracuse lacks a “star,” which could be a problem come ACC play. Although, Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes played that role pretty darn well Saturday. Boeheim finished with a career-high 22 points and went a ridiculous 6-7 from three point range. While, Hughes scored 16 points in the opening 10 minutes en route to a 21 point performance.
I’m not saying this team is a juggernaut offensively. It was Bucknell (the 143rd best team on Kenpom.com). Also, they are bound to have concerning stretches where they go cold like the end of the first half Wednesday against Cornell. They’re young and have less off-the-dribble creators than the ACC elite.
“One of those games where everything went right for us and nothing went right for them,” Boeheim said. “We aren’t that good and they aren’t that bad.”
They still have a lot to prove. Let’s not forget, Syracuse’s one power-five game this year, Virginia, they scored 34 points.
“You can’t read into this game. It’s one game. You know the last game we played we were three points ahead with 10 minutes to go,” Coach Boeheim. “We let a kid who no one recruited score 25 inside,” he jokingly said about his son Jimmy.
Virginia was the pre-Girard starting days though. The point guard change makes a huge difference.
With a stretch of five straight power-five games upcoming, we will see just how big of a difference Girard makes.
Time to find out if this fun, quick, three-ball chucking Syracuse is just a fad or if the shift in style and on-court swagger is here to stay against the big boys. My gut says it is.