Syracuse basketball is almost upon us. Jim Boeheim’s 47th year begins with a Monday night affair with Lehigh at the JMA Dome (we wonder if the cell service will work…) After two exhibition scrimmages, it’s safe to say nobody has been wowed by this team. The Orange beat Indiana University (conveniently located in Pennsylvania) 86-68 after trailing at the half, then led Southern New Hampshire from the start in a slow-shooting slog of a 72-58 win. Both of these teams are D2 schools. There are definitely things to clean up before SU does the real thing on Monday night. Let’s explore the three most important areas.
1. Establish a Three-Point Rhythm
It’s clear that the sharpshooting mindset from last season, when the Orange took almost 800 three-pointers and made 37% of them, has carried over to this team. With Joe Girard as your leading scorer, it makes a lot of sense. Speaking of which, JG3 went 3-8 on threes in the first exhibition game, some of which were in rhythm, and others rather awkward. He only took four triples in the second game, and made two of them. However, we know what to expect from Girard at this point. He’ll be streaky and win a couple games for SU, and then potentially lose a couple as well when he turns into an offensive non-factor.
What’s more important is the young players finding their spots, especially from behind the arc. Both Benny Williams and Chris Bell had bad shooting showings. Bell was a total of 1-12 from downtown. The streakiness of his game was well-documented coming into this season, but if he’s going to start, Syracuse needs more of his form from the Orange and Blue three-point contest (when he went 12-15).
2. Keep Jesse Edwards out of Foul Trouble
Edwards picked up three fouls in the first half against SNHU, and the Penmen’s tallest player was 6-foot-6. The hacking and smacking hasn’t changed from last year, where he fouled out in 11 of 24 games. The reaching over smaller players because he “thought they were going to dunk” has to stop. Edwards needs to play around 28 minutes a game, or this team has no chance to compete down low against high-level opponents. For the time being, Mounir Hima looks like a feasible backup, but he’s not as athletic or dynamic rolling to the basket or blocking shots.
3. Slow Judah Mintz Down
On the topic of fouls, freshman PG Judah Mintz fouled out in 24 minutes against SNHU. He also committed five turnovers, and went just 2-10 from the field. The ups and downs of being a freshman in any college sport are well-documented. The game feels fast, the guys are bigger, faster, stronger and everything is more complex. Most likely, more competitive on-court experience is what Mintz needs, but in the meantime, sharing ball-handing responsibilities with Symir Torrence (whose jumper looks much better) would help.