Syracuse Basketball: 3 keys to making the NCAA Tournament

Syracuse basketball is projected as a fringe tournament team heading into the 2020-21 season. The Orange have their plate full for a tournament birth.

How many more years? It seems like what must be the seventh repeat start to the season where the Syracuse basketball team has talent, but a lot of question marks.

This year, it’s about replacing the ACC’s leading scorer from a year ago, Elijah Hughes. This means the ‘Cuse will be searching for a new go-to guy, while also looking for who will step up into key supporting roles.

But along with that comes the specific ways in which the Orange will have to be better. Basketball is a game of runs, and the most important runs are the daily leaps made during the offseason and throughout the year. Hard work pays off, and if Syracuse can key in on certain aspects, it could make for a successful season.

MORE REBOUNDS!

Last season, Syracuse struggled to rebound the basketball. The Orange averaged just under a shade of 36 boards per game – making the top 200 by only a fraction.

There is hope in this number going up, as Syracuse does return its top three rebounders from last season. The Orange also brings in Frank Anselem, Woody Newton, and John Bol Ajak, who redshirted last season. All three incomers will play in the low post and should add depth to a part of the game that Syracuse basketball has been lacking in.

Syracuse basketball

Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

TIGHTER DEFENSE

Syracuse basketball and the 2-3 zone go hand in hand, but every once in awhile it just doesn’t seem to click. Last year, the Orange gave up nearly 70 points per game, its second-highest points allowed per game total in the decade.

Losing Elijah Hughes won’t help – he was third on the team in steals per game and tied for second in blocks per game last season.

However, Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim both turned the ball over at high rates last season. They’ll just have to be counted on more at the top of a zone that will need to turn bad passes into easy points.

A QUALITY WIN(S)

Last season Syracuse basketball finished with an 18-14 (10-10 ACC) record, which by all accounts isn’t good, but would have been enough for a tournament birth had the Orange won a few more meaningful games.

Whether its in the non-conference or in league play, SU needs to have a few quadrant one wins if they want to compete for a national title.

No team in the history of the NCAA Tournament got there without at least a couple of wins over top-25 opponents or in tough road environments. Last year, Syracuse beat a top-20 Virginia team on the road, but that alone wouldn’t have been nearly enough. Quality wins are crucial, and so Syracuse will need to play big when those opportunities arise.