Syracuse is back to their .500 bench mark after a win over Clemson. That still leaves them far away from the NCAA Tournament bubble, but just as the Orange look like they are about to bury themselves, they bounce back. Here’s what the rollercoaster ride taught us so far.
Offense Can Win Games
Jim Boeheim has said consistently throughout the year that the offense is not only not the problem, but actually one of the best in the nation. The Orange plastered 91 points on Clemson last night. Granted, the Tigers travel was delayed due to inclement weather. But, regardless, a win is a win and 91 points are 91 points. Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim showed what they can do with a combined 48 points. When they shoot well, that’s one of the best backcourts in the conference. When they shoot really well, it’s one of the best backcourts in the country. However, if Syracuse fans enjoyed watching the offensive clinic from the shooters, they will have to pay the price of admission. That price is the occasional, and for Girard even borderline frequent, shooting struggles on a given night. While the offense can carry SU to wins like this and even over far superior teams, will it stay consistent enough to make a run and rectify the early season struggles?
Defense Beyond Repair
Let’s admit it. There is no fixing this defense. Boeheim tried tinkering with the zone, shifting from the 2-3 to the 1-1-3 to take away the high post. Neither really worked. Occasionally opponents struggle to score, but the tape shows open three-pointers that they fail to connect on. That’s a fancy way of saying sometimes Syracuse gets lucky. The Orange are tied for the worst defense in the ACC. There have been and can be marginal improvements, but nothing grand enough to change the identity of this team. When push comes to shove, SU will have to outscore teams to win. That was on display yesterday against Clemson. Clemson’s 78 points is far from a negligible number. If the Syracuse guards didn’t shoot well, this column is about how the Orange are doomed rather than treading water.
What You See is What They Have
Reinforcements aren’t coming anytime soon. Symir Torrence seems to deserve more playing time, but Jim Boeheim is hesitant to play him more than 15 or 20 minutes per game. Granted, it’s hard to take Joe Girard off the floor when he is 4-5 from beyond the arc like he was against Clemson. Maybe Torrence carves out a bigger role going forward when Girard struggles. But, game in and game out, Frank Anselem proves an inability to give the Orange anything Jesse Edwards doesn’t out of the center spot. Benny Williams is far from what SU fans were hoping for at this point of the season. The potential is still there, but the flower won’t blossom this season. So, get used to this group. The same guys that dug Syracuse a hole 18 games into the season will need to be the same guys who climb out of it.