Syracuse basketball continues an important three-game stretch on the Hill this Saturday afternoon when the Orange hosts fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Florida State.
According to ‘Cuse head coach Jim Boeheim, the team played its best basketball of the 2021-22 campaign in the second half against Pittsburgh earlier this week, when the Orange outscored the Panthers, 42-27, on the way to a 16-point triumph at the Carrier Dome.
I found a lot of positive takeaways in that second half versus Pitt, most importantly that the ‘Cuse upped the ante after halftime after struggling in other recent second halves that resulted in setbacks.
That being said, the Panthers aren’t a great team, and it was only 20 minutes of basketball. Let’s see if the Orange can replicate that performance in its upcoming encounter with the Seminoles, a team that the ‘Cuse stunned on the road by three points in early December.
Here’s what Syracuse basketball must do to knock off FSU.
First and foremost, the ‘Cuse (8-8, 2-3) has to remain active, alert and energetic on the defensive end of the floor. Orange players need to stay laser-focused on covering shooters on the wings, closing off penetration by Florida State guards, containing the damage from the high post, and hitting the glass with proficiency.
In recent games, despite some losses, the ‘Cuse has held its own on the boards, and that has to hold true versus a Seminoles group that is athletic and boasts a really deep bench.
Florida State (9-5, 3-2) isn’t a terrific shooting squad from the perimeter, connecting on about 33 percent from beyond the arc. Still, as Boeheim has said, any team can make shots from deep if their attempts are wide open.
Against Pittsburgh, Syracuse basketball kept its number of turnovers at a respectable rate, and the Orange now faces an FSU unit that coughs up roughly 13 miscues per contest. This is an opportunity for the ‘Cuse to generate deflections and steals, and hopefully, convert Florida State turnovers into easy transition buckets.
Speaking of buckets, senior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim broke out of his mini shooting slump with a spectacular performance in the Orange’s win over the Panthers.
It would prove stellar if Boeheim could continue shooting the ball well, but it won’t be easy. At the time of this writing, KenPom placed the Seminoles at No. 32 across the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
FSU spreads its minutes around, which is often a hallmark of this program. That means Seminoles players are likely to have fresher legs than the ‘Cuse, which relies heavily on its starters, and I could foresee Seminoles defenders absolutely swarming Boeheim.
As a result, it’s imperative that junior point guard Joe Girard III and senior forward Cole Swider are assertive in hunting for their own shots. In an encouraging sign, Girard was aggressive in driving to the rim versus Pitt.
Syracuse basketball will have to connect on some 3-pointers, but guys like graduate student forward Jimmy Boeheim and junior center Jesse Edwards should have chances to score in the interior.
The key for Edwards is to stay out of foul trouble for as long as possible.
Should it look like he may be headed for the sixth game in a row where he fouls out, back-up center Frank Anselem, a sophomore, will need to successfully anchor the Orange’s zone as best he can.