In its recent wins over Miami and top-25 Virginia Tech, Syracuse basketball put forth solid performances on both offense and defense. Even when the Orange struggled from 3-point land versus the Hokies, the ‘Cuse got into the paint and still managed to score a commendable number of points.
However, as Syracuse basketball comes off an 81-58 drubbing on the road at the hands of No. 8 Virginia on Monday evening, the Orange sits at 9-5 overall and 3-4 in Atlantic Coast Conference competition.
Four of the team’s losses are away from Central New York, to Rutgers, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and UVA. Its fifth setback, to the Panthers at home, was a disaster, as the ‘Cuse got crushed on the boards and blew an 18-point advantage.
Regardless, Pitt is a good squad, and so none of those defeats are horrible. And Syracuse basketball has a victory over nationally ranked Virginia Tech, as well as other solid conquests of Bryant and Northeastern.
So the Orange’s post-season resume, at this juncture, isn’t spectacular, but it’s not terrible, either. What’s stinging the ‘Cuse, though, is a lack of consistency on both ends of the court.
Syracuse basketball has to find a balance of good offense and good defense.
Of course, a lot of that depends on the opponent. When Syracuse basketball squares off against a physical, tough foe, such as Pittsburgh, North Carolina or Virginia, it’s not a surprise if the Orange struggles to score.
However, even head coach Jim Boeheim acknowledged after the loss to the Cavaliers that ‘Cuse players got open looks. They simply couldn’t knock down enough shots.
On the season, Syracuse basketball is connecting on just 31.4 percent from 3-point land, and that’s a problem. It’s also an ongoing pattern that whenever the Orange is out-rebounded, it falls flat.
What is frustrating about the Syracuse basketball offense, in the UVA affair and other prior losses, is that the Orange can become too reliant on hoisting up challenging attempts from deep, and often way too early in the possession.
The ‘Cuse is among the ACC’s best in dishing out assists, and Syracuse basketball thrives on offense when it spaces the floor well, moves the ball with precision, and efficiently scores both in the paint and from beyond the arc. Too much dribbling and one-on-one stuff are not a strong recipe for success.
Defensively, as a collective unit, the ‘Cuse certainly has its woes on the glass, as well as closing out on shooters. Sophomore forward Quincy Guerrier, in his post-game Zoom call with media members after the Cavaliers debacle, said that the entire team has to communicate better, and the Orange defense has to improve.
When opponents are fluid in their ball movement, focus on getting the ball into the high post, and hit the boards hard, it’s difficult for the ‘Cuse to contain them. Especially if they hit at an efficient clip from 3-point range, which Virginia did.
There’s no shame in getting beat on the road versus UVA. The Cavaliers are achieving against a lot of teams these days. But for Syracuse basketball to entertain the thought of reaching the 2021 Big Dance, it must find greater harmony among its offense and its defense.