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Could Extra Time Off Help SU Hoops Recharge?

Credit Dennis Nett/Courtesy

It’s now been over a full week since Syracuse men’s basketball took the floor. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but COVID issues with Lehigh and Cornell just pushed back games the Orange were supposed to play on December 18th and 21st. It’s an unfortunate consequence of something larger that hopefully doesn’t throw off the season any further.

Depending on who you ask, a prolonged break between games can do one of two things. Either it can cool off a hot team and cause some rust, or it can be a relief for a struggling squad that needed a breather to sort out some wrinkles. Syracuse doesn’t exactly fit into either of those categories, but you can make a good argument that this pause in play may actually be a good thing for SU.

Sound crazy? Not exactly. You might be restless at home waiting for the Orange to get back onto your TV screen, but you can be sure this break is doing the players some good. If nothing else, it’s giving some of them a break from playing a metric ton of minutes.

Jim Boeheim is famous for neglecting to use his bench, and this season has been no different. The December 11th Georgetown game seems like a long time ago, but recall that SU blew a 10-point halftime lead and brought in just one bench player in the last 20 minutes – center Frank Anselem – for three minutes as the second half slipped away. The game before that saw SU total zero bench points against Villanova. Must be the script jerseys.

A simple look at the ACC’s minutes leaders backs up the image of an exhausted SU squad. Of the 70 or so regular starters in a 15-team ACC, four of the top 26 in minutes played are SU players, and a closer look makes that stat a little more meaningful. Thanks to yesterday’s cancellation, all four of those players (Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim, Joe Girard, and Cole Swider) have all played just 10 games. Every other player in the top 26 has played either 11 or 12 games, but the Orange are still hanging around in the leaders for minutes played among the entire conference. Buddy Boeheim is still fifth in the entire ACC for time on the floor.

The reason you should care about any of this is because Syracuse has had serious trouble putting teams away in the second half. As games wear on, the Orange have trouble knocking down shots and see their defensive averages crater. SU has only outscored three opponents in the second half this year: Lafayette, Drexel, and Florida State during one of its worst-ever shooting nights. These are symptoms of a team that is simply getting tired down the stretch. 

Load management is a problem this team has to start thinking about, and the unexpected break in the schedule may give them the time to do so. 

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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