Syracuse came into this season with some question marks, but one clear objective. To shoot threes. With Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard and Alan Griffin headlining the offense, the identity of the team seemed abundantly clear.
But now, that identity looks murky. Part of that is due to the poor play of Girard, who finished with just two points against Pitt on Saturday. So far this season, the sophomore is hitting less than 34% of his triples, despite chucking up over six per game.
Of course, the emergence of Quincy Guerrier is why a switch in offensive strategy could work. He’s the most efficient scorer on the roster, with an effective field goal percentage of 60.6%, according to Kenpom. Marek Dolezaj is the second most efficient scorer.
Meanwhile SU’s three guards are the least efficient scorers of the players that play regularly. Some of this is attributable to an increased offensive burden for Girard and Buddy Boeheim. But Alan Griffin and Guerrier are the leading scorers, and doing so efficiently. Both Girard or Boeheim are sinking less than 38% of their field goals.
SU’s offense is actually pretty decent, ranking 42nd nationally in adjusted efficiency, per Kenpom. SU doesn’t turn the ball over very often, is one of the better free throw shooting teams in the country and is efficient from two-point range.
But the one area where Syracuse is inadequate offensively is in its three-point shooting. SU ranks 246th nationally in three-point percentage, hitting just 31.4% of its looks. Despite its inefficiency, Syracuse shoots threes on 42.4% of its shots. That’s the 61st highest rate nationally.
There are only six teams (Oakland, Canisius, Florida Gulf Coast, UC San Diego, St. Joseph’s and Coppin St.) that shoot a higher percentage of threes while being less efficient than SU. Of those six schools, Florida Gulf Coast (5-4) is the only one with a winning record. The rest are a combined 15-36 this season.
Now this isn’t to say that Syracuse shouldn’t take open looks. They should. But rather than being reliant on the three, Syracuse should work the ball inside to Guerrier, allow Griffin to drive to the hoop with the ball, or cut backdoor without it. Dolezaj has become a steady contributor too — averaging almost 12 points. That’s a better average than Girard while taking 31 less shots
Now, there are games when Kadary Richmond is effective at driving to the hoop, or Girard is hot from distance.
But that’s been rare. There’s only been one game where Girard has shot at least 50% from the field this season. When he’s cold, he doesn’t need to go 2-9 from three like he did against Bryant and Northeastern.
As for Buddy Boeheim, his 26.7% from three is bound to improve. But if the shots aren’t falling, he needs to stop shooting. There’s no reason to go 0-8 from three — as happened against Pitt — and sink SU’s chances. There’s no need to continue to shoot against Northeastern or Buffalo, when he was 1-12 and 8-24 from the field respectively.
Instead, work inside out, rather than chucking up contested looks. Allow Guerrier and Griffin to be the focal points of the offense. Too often, shot hunting early in the shot clock has ended in meaningless possessions. SU needs to work the ball to its efficient players, closing in the defense and opening up the perimeter. The stats back it up.