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Syracuse Basketball Needs to Change Its Starting Lineup

Syracuse basketball has prided itself on its bench this year. The Orange have gotten regular 40+ point performances from its second unit, especially in a five-game win streak in December. While it’s nice to have good backups, and SU usually stays consistent with its starting five, it’s time for a change.

Syracuse’s starters are putting the team in a bad spot, and will lose games for the Orange if something isn’t fixed. Against Duke, SU fell to a 7-1 deficit in the first half. This isn’t unusual for Syracuse basketball. In three of their last four games, the Orange’s starters have let their opponents get to 10 points first. 

Falling behind early can put SU out of games. Head coach Adrian Autry’s words after the loss to Duke back this up.

“Sometimes you just start forcing, start pushing,” Autry said. “Instead of playing the game, you play the score. I thought we started playing the score, and when their lead got up, we rushed some stuff.”

So if getting behind early is so bad, then why aren’t the best players on the court?

Syracuse’s starting frontcourt trio of Chris Bell, Justin Taylor, and Naheem McLeod are no longer the best players at their position. Bell is averaging under four points per game in the last five contests. Taylor hasn’t hit a field goal since three games ago. McLeod has become a defensive liability and grabs less than five rebounds per game, despite being 7’4”.

Meanwhile, SU’s second unit has proven itself. Quadir Copeland is putting up 13.8 points per game over the last five contests, while being one of the best distributors and defenders on the team. Brown just put up a career high 26 points and is just one of five ACC players to have over two steals per game. Even Williams is becoming consistent on defense, or at least more consistent than Bell or Taylor. 

As a group, the bench unit has scored more than the starters in three of the last four games, even though that starting group has the Orange’s leading scorer in Judah Mintz.

It boils down to this: Syracuse basketball can’t afford to give up points to its opponents early on, forcing it to play from behind. Why wait for opponents to take a lead before putting your best unit out there?

The starting lineup should be Mintz, Starling, Copeland, Williams, and Brown. As great as the sixth man mentality is, winning has to take precedent. Starting this group gives the Orange the best chance to do that.

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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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