Well, a couple of historic moments have passed us by since the last mailbag. Syracuse suffered its worst loss since the 1960s last Saturday against Pitt, Saints QB Drew Brees might’ve played his last NFL game last Sunday, and earlier today, a Syracuse law graduate was inaugurated as President. But the latter two are besides the point. Back to SU hoops.
The Pitt loss was demoralizing. SU gave up 64 points in the second half to a team that doesn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc. Justin Champagnie made a mockery of the Orange bigs, Xavier Johnson strolled unimpeded to the rim, and Ithiel Horton sunk shot after shot from deep. It was a mess.
Just look at the lackadaisical effort from Alan Griffin on this possession. It’s a nine-point game, and Horton takes a late shot clock three. Kadary Richmond is there for the closeout. However, instead of finding a body to block out, Griffin steps up, lazily puts a hand up to contest the shot, then watches the ball. Meanwhile, the ACC’s best rebounder has an open lane directly to the rim. It’s effective social distancing from Griffin, but nothing else.
I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to relive this. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t lie. Over and over again, Pitt beats Syracuse down the floor, gets the ball wherever they want it, and finishes at the rim.
The team that runs the zone lacks an understanding of zone principles. The guards deny drives and the free throw line (which Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim have not been doing), the forwards step up when the ball is past the elbow, then have to get back and help on the glass (Quincy Guerrier has been great, Griffin not so much), and the man in the middle needs to protect the rim and grab boards. Marek Dolezaj should not be playing the five. The adjustment was made this Tuesday, as Jesse Edwards saw time against Miami and played really solid minutes.
I think everyone in the 315 is going to go back and forth about this for the rest of the season. I’ve said this before on Fizz Radio, and I’m sticking with it. The Syracuse starting lineup should be Joe Girard, Buddy Boeheim, Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier, and Bourama Sidibe. But that’s just not a possibility.
I’m with Andrew on this one, though. Edwards made a tangible difference against the ‘Canes with his sheer size alone. Giving him more game minutes will allow him to develop the skills he needs to be a competent big man. There’s no more “The bigs aren’t ready” when SU is getting out-rebounded every game. Syracuse needs size, and the Dutchman is the answer.
In regards to Richmond, he’s better off of the bench. Joe Girard has to start because of his outside shooting. It creates space for others, spreads the floor and can bail SU out in some tough late shot clock situations. However, if JG3 starts 0-3 from behind the arc, yank him. In a similar vein, if opposing guards are getting to the cup with ease, put Richmond in for defensive purposes. The freshman will work best in the pick-and-roll, but he’s not getting those looks yet. Jim Boeheim hasn’t seen enough from him scoring-wise to start him over Girard.
Finally, Griffin. This is a dilemma. Who do you bench to get Alan Griffin in the starting lineup? Is it Dolezaj? The Orange then give up 5 inches of height, and a lot of interior creation on the offensive end. Jim Boeheim certainly won’t bench his son. I like the flashes that I’ve seen from Griffin, but they’re just too few and far between to warrant giving him a place in the starting 5. However, if Girard gets benched for Richmond, SU needs Griffin on the floor for spacing purposes.
That’s certainly a loaded question. It seems like Jim Boeheim plans to stick around until Buddy graduates. Afterwards, who knows. But it isn’t just Brandon asking this question. Syracuse alum and WFAN’s John Jastremski wondered the same thing.
Here’s the thing. Jim Boeheim will probably fire Syracuse AD John Wildhack if anyone attempts to jostle Boeheim out of his post. He’s a legend, and obviously deserves to retire on his own terms.
However, I do think he would serve himself extremely well to find a new assistant. I’m not saying his current assistants are terrible. In fact, I think Gerry McNamara, Allen Griffin, and Adrian Autry do a solid job. However, it’s no secret that SU’s recruiting and play in the past few years has taken a nosedive. The Orange need an assistant that’s a bit more well-spoken with today’s game. That means using analytics and film (both which we know Boeheim isn’t a large fan of) to make coaching decisions, and hitting the recruiting trail hard. Syracuse needs a bit of a culture shift, and it has to happen from within.