Syracuse Basketball: Is The Offense Really This Bad?


Mar 2, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim during the second half of a game against the Louisville Cardinals at the Carrier Dome. Louisville won the game 58-53. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It was the beginning of the second half against the Louisville Cardinals in the Carrier Dome Saturday. The Syracuse offense had produced 19 points in the first half, but were only down 4 at the break as they played good defense and rebounded the ball well in the first 20 minutes. While standing and clapping in the opening minutes of the second half, I found myself asking myself the same thing I’ve been asking since the Syracuse home game against Cincinnati on January 21st.

Eventually this offense has to start clicking again right?

Through the first 18 games of the season, the Syracuse offense has averaged 78.5 points per game. Yes, part of this is due to the competition in the non-conference portion of the schedule. But keep in mind this stretch of games also included 91 points on the road at Arkansas (where the Razorbacks’ only home loss this season is to Syracuse) and games in the 70s against Temple, Villanova, and Louisville. The Syracuse offense looked much more smooth and in rhythm, and the Orange were cruising.

Then, something happened. I can’t pinpoint a reason why (probably because there are multiple reasons), but the Syracuse offense has averaged just 65.4 points a game in their previous 11 contests. While 13 points fewer doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of points to dip down to when comparing the non-conference schedule to the meat of the Big East schedule, it took 77 points against St. John’s, 76 at Seton Hall, and 84 against Providence to get there. Not exactly defensive powerhouses.

So what are some possible reasons?

One popular argument that I personally hate hearing are complaints on the way the minutes are being shared around the team. With all due respect to Trevor Cooney, he just doesn’t seem prepared to give Syracuse valuable minutes this season. That’s not to say he won’t get to a point where he can contribute to the team, but anyone who believes the lack of offensive production is because Jim Boeheim only goes around 7 deep for a game hasn’t followed the team prior to 2010. Boeheim playing more than playing seven guys is a rarity, and to think a bunch of college athletes are too tired to produce offensively on the court because of excess minutes is just silly to me.

Another argument is very simple: Syracuse didn’t play very difficult competition in the first half of the season, and now that they find themselves in the meat of Big East play, their true offensive colors are showing. This is another one I disagree with, as your seeing a Syracuse team that scored 70 on Louisville score just 58 on the Cardinals a month and a half later. If this offense were that challenged for good competition, I don’t believe there would be that much of a fluctuation in two games so close together.

The third argument is a very plausible one in my opinion: Syracuse simply can’t shoot the ball. I believe this team has people capable of making jump shots, but they simply aren’t doing so. Brandon Triche is shooting 29% from three this season. Michael Carter-Williams is 28% from deep, with some of those attempts coming at absolutely critical times when the shot appears forced (see: MCW three point attempt late in Louisville game Saturday). Sharpshooter James Southerland? 40% on the season which is decent, but some of his shot selections over the course of this winning streak have been silly at best. This team has watched their field goal percentage as a whole drop them out of the top 100 in the country, and there appears to be no end in sight.

And then there is this argument that I believe is an absolute fact: Syracuse has lived off of their transition offense over recent years, and this season it just isn’t there. Syracuse has not done a great job of getting out and running following an offensive rebound, and I believe that is the biggest factor leading to a lack of offensive production at times this season. Syracuse has difficulty speeding the game up like they have been able to do in the past, with multiple turnovers coming when the Orange have tried to run on their opponents this season.

Regardless of the reason, it is coming at the worst time in the season for Syracuse. The Orange went from cruising to a Big East Regular Season Championship, to hoping for a double bye in the Big East Tournament. Luckily for Syracuse, they have a home date with lowly DePaul Wednesday to use as a tune up for a showdown at Georgetown Saturday afternoon. Saturday is the biggest game of the season for Syracuse, and whether Georgetown clinches the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament or not, the game this Saturday will undoubtedly be the game of the season for the Hoyas as well. These past couple of weekends have been very disappointing ones for fans wearing Orange, but all of that can easily be forgotten in my opinion with a win down in DC in Syracuse’s Big East finale.