Raise your hand if you had Syracuse Men’s Basketball going 3-3 in the first six games! No one? Yeah, that’s about right. The Orange are severely underperforming right now for a plethora of reasons — losing the battle of the boards, turning the ball over too many times, not hitting shots.
All of those things are pretty common with SU over the past couple years though. This season, however, there is a new issue that is plaguing the Orange, which became apparent to the entire country during the Battle 4 Atlantis. Syracuse cannot break a full court press. Plain and simple.
It all began in the tournament opener versus VCU. The Rams pressed the Orange for the majority of the game, which led to 16 SU turnovers and 16 VCU points off of turnovers.
Then, in game number two against Arizona State, the Sun Devils were down by 13 with three and a half minutes left in the second half. ASU put on a press, completely flustering SU, and getting the deficit down to seven.
“They’re going to press,” Jim Boeheim said following the Arizona State game. “We didn’t handle it very well. Joe turned it over once. Jimmy once. I think everyone turned it over once.”
Auburn didn’t put on a traditional full court press in game three of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but once in a while they applied some pressure. Even at that point, after two straight games of dealing with a press, Syracuse still couldn’t handle it.
The entire tournament the Orange looked like deer in headlights when a press was thrown at them. Syracuse continually got trapped in the corners, made bad passes and dribbled into awaiting defenders. It looked like a JV team trying to break a press while scrimmaging the varsity team.
That isn’t even the most infuriating part of it. The fact that Syracuse didn’t run any sort of inbounds play or press breaker was even worse. Every time it would just be Joe Girard or Buddy Boeheim running to the corner, getting trapped, and trying to split a double team which most likely led to a turnover.
When the guards did get out of the trap, there were plenty of times they couldn’t handle a one-on-one press, which is what you practice every day. All you have to do is zig-zag with the defender until you get over half court.
When Syracuse did break the press, very few times did it lead to a fastbreak bucket, which is the goal of the offense. Plus, eight to ten seconds would have ticked off the shot clock, making it more difficult on the Orange to get a good shot.
SU’s inability to break the press was put on full display for the entire nation to see in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Now, every opponent for the rest of the season knows it can implement a press and completely stifle Syracuse.
The recipe for success is that easy. Jim Boeheim and company need to address that as soon as possible.