Two exhibition games into Syracuse‚Äôs 2021-22 men‚Äôs basketball season, we‚Äôve certainly seen our fair share of offensive production. The Orange put up 79 and 90 points in two games against Pace and Le Moyne, respectively. Those two are certainly softer competition, but ‚ÄòCuse showed off a sharpshooting pedigree that hasn‚Äôt been present the past couple of years. Even against lesser teams, you still have to put the basketball in the hoop.
Across the two games, SU did just that. The Orange shot 54.1% against Le Moyne and 54.5% against Pace. The point distribution was decently spread out over those two games, but one name in particular impressed with his play in both outings: senior forward Cole Swider.
When the 6‚Äô9, 225 lb Swider transferred to Syracuse in late March, the move didn‚Äôt exactly make waves. In an ACC offseason dominated by the departure of Roy Williams and Coach K‚Äôs soon-to-be retirement tour, SU‚Äôs addition of Swider wasn‚Äôt very heralded. You‚Äôd be forgiven if you thought the addition of a third Boeheim or a highly-ranked freshman in Benny Williams served as more intriguing storylines. Heck, Swider barely eked out a win as this year‚Äôs Best Newcomer on the Fizz‚Äôs Preseason Awards List. However, all Swider‚Äôs done since then is tear up the court on the offensive end.
Swider‚Äôs 39 points across the two exhibitions led the entire SU team. That‚Äôs taking Joe Girard‚Äôs 20-point showing against Le Moyne into account. Buddy Boeheim totaled just 20 points across the two games. Meanwhile, Swider was racking up baskets and doing it efficiently. The Villanova transfer hit 15 of 22 (!) shots across the two games, including 9-15 from deep. The same guy who said he ‚Äúdidn‚Äôt want to waste anybody‚Äôs time‚Äù during the transfer process hasn‚Äôt wasted any time showing off his skillset as a perimeter threat. That‚Äôs big news for Jim Boeheim and company.
Last year, the Orange were a solid three-point shooting team – they ranked 67th in the nation in three-pointers made per game – but they were not efficient from beyond the arc. SU hit just 35% of its three-point shots to rank a more mediocre 119th in the country. That team wasn‚Äôt hesitating to take outside shots, but they weren‚Äôt making them enough. Adding to the problem is that only two ‚ÄòCuse players averaged two or more three-pointers made per game last year: one was Buddy Boeheim, and the other is Alan Griffin, who now plays for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G League.
That production vacancy beyond the perimeter means Swider has a great chance to step up and do what he does best. The senior played in every one of Villanova‚Äôs 25 games last season and shot just over 40% from three-point range. If these first two games are any indication, the opportunity for Swider to go from Wildcats role-player to surprise breakout star at Syracuse is there. Buddy Boeheim soared to new stardom last year, and Elijah Hughes did it the year before that. If Swider keeps shooting the house down like he has the past two games, new status and laurels are all but guaranteed.