Another victory today against Virginia Tech makes it 3 in a row for Syracuse. Currently, 11-7 on the year and 4-3 in conference, it seems that the Orange are taking heavy strides to move in the direction of a tournament appearance, however, they’re still far from it. Here’s what SU has got to do to make it to the big dance.
Keep Up the Good Work on Defense
While it seems that the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone has gotten more and more criticism from fans as the years have gone on, it still proves to be incredibly effective against good teams. During this short win streak, the SU defense has been stifling. Against Virginia, the Orange allowed only 55 points, 50 against Boston College and 69 against Virginia Tech for an average of 58. This season when keeping opponents to under 65 points Syracuse is 8-1. They say defense wins ballgames, that’s held true for this Orange squad.
Keep Dolezaj on the Court
Aside from being a fan favorite, Marek Dolezaj is the swiss army knife of the Syracuse basketball team and arguably the most important player on the squad. Against Virginia Tech, the Slovakian recorded his third career double-double, recording 11 points and corralling 11 rebounds. Other than filling the center role effectively when Bourama is off the court, Dolezaj picks his opponent’s pockets and defends the rim, he’s averaging 1.4 steals a game and 1 block a game. He can do it all, which is why he’s such an asset for SU. Not many teams have a guy who can line up anywhere and give their opponent a problem. Dolezaj is averaging 33.4 minutes, the most he’s seen in 3 years at Syracuse, and it sure is paying off for Jim Boeheim. The more Dolezaj sees the court the better the Orange lineup will be.
Get Buddy in Rhythm
Buddy Boeheim has the potential to be this team’s, go-to scorer. Yes, Elijah Hughes has held that role this year and done a pretty good job of it, but in these last couple of games, Boeheim has shown a willingness to get the ball in the basketball that hasn’t been present otherwise. Against BC, the coach’s son was unstoppable, he dropped 22 points while shooting 53% from the field and 50% from distance. Today against Virginia Tech, Boeheim had a similar performance. He lead the team with 26 points on 50% shooting. The big question mark left on Boeheim is consistency. These last two games were only the second time in his career, he was able to put up back-to-back 20-point games. If he can put up numbers close to this every time out, scoring won’t be an issue for SU. Boeheim’s play will act perfectly in tandem to that of Elijah Hughes, in which case the Orange offense would be scarily good.
Syracuse has a long way to before being considered to be a real threat come March, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If this team can continue to play phenomenal defense, utilize its diamond in the rough, Marek Dolezaj, and continue to feed the rising star that is Buddy Boeheim, the wins will come.