For Syracuse basketball to improve in a to-be turbulent year of college basketball, its success hinges on the growth of Joe Girard. Here at The Fizz, we decided to dive deeper into Girard’s stats from last season, and where he needs to improve.
For Girard, he’s going to live and die by the three. Early on it seemed that Girard was going to make the transition to college basketball without much of a hiccup. But then, there were stretches where every three seemed to clank off the rim, before SU’s point guard found his groove again late in the season.
What’s somewhat surprising according to kenpom.com, is that Girard shot much better from three against Tier A (Top 50) opponents versus Tier B (Top 100) opponents. Against Top 50 teams, Girard shot over 35% from three, compared to just 30% against Tier B. Part of this could be increased confidence and improvement as the season went on. It may also be attributed, in part, to Girard playing up to competition, or his clutch shooting. Regardless, Girard shot better from three against better competition.
However, his two-point shooting percentage was much worse against top 50 opponents. Against these teams, Girard made just over a quarter of his two-pointers, compared to 37% of twos against Tier B teams. At 6-foot-1, Girard is a smaller point guard, who commonly struggled getting to the bucket against lengthier ACC opponents. He also doesn’t have the quickness to burst past defenders. This is concerning, as it’s uncertain how Girard can mold his game to be better in the arc.
Overall, Girard’s offensive rating was slightly better against Tier A opponents, and he was less likely to turn the ball over. Against Top 50 teams, Girard’s turnover rate dropped almost two percent, to 12.1 rate. Only Buddy Boeheim turned the ball over less. As the season went on, Girard turned the ball over less as he seemed to figure out what he could, and couldn’t do against ACC defenders.
However, as a team SU was much worse defensively last year than in 2018-19. Last season, Syracuse ranked 116th in adjusted defensive efficiency. One year earlier, with Frank Howard and Tyus Battle at the top of the zone, SU’s defensive efficiency ranked 30th.
The defense of Girard and Buddy at the top of the zone is something Boeheim will have to consider. Maybe he slides Alan Griffin to the top, and puts Buddy on the wing. Boeheim could also allow Kadary Richmond up top. But that depends on how many minutes the freshman places, and it’s highly unlikely he usurps Girard.
While there is one glaring offensive stat that doesn’t seem fixable, there is a solution for Girard. Don’t shoot twos. If there’s not an opening to the hoop, find a teammate or look for an open three. Besides that, he progressed in his three-shooting and his ball handling.