If Syracuse basketball hopes to knock off nationally ranked opponents later on in the 2023-24 season, the Orange will have to vastly improve on the glass and with its shooting, especially from the perimeter.
The Orange (3-2) is set to face Division II Chaminade (1-4) on Wednesday evening in the final game for the ‘Cuse at the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational from the University of Hawaii’s SimpliFi Arena in Honolulu.
Earlier this week in Hawaii, Syracuse basketball suffered consecutive double-digit defeats to No. 7 Tennessee and No. 11 Gonzaga. The Orange, in both losses, got hammered on the boards and was not good from 3-point land.
To be fair, a young ‘Cuse roster going up against top-flight competition this early on in the 2023-24 stanza was a tall task, and Syracuse basketball was within six points of the Volunteers and the Bulldogs in the later stages of each contest’s second half before these opponents pulled away from the Orange.
Syracuse basketball must shore up its rebounding and 3-point shooting.
Versus Gonzaga, the ‘Cuse hit on just 12.5 percent from long range. Against the Vols, the Orange wasn’t much better, connecting on only 30.0 percent from beyond the arc. For the entire 2023-24 campaign to date, Syracuse basketball is making 25.9 percent of its 3-point attempts.
That’s a problem. By extension, the Orange’s foes in 2023-24 thus far have connected on 35.1 percent from downtown. SU opponents are roughly 10 percentage points higher from 3-point land, which is a sizable discrepancy.
The ‘Cuse is hitting on 71 percent from the free-throw line, which is okay, but not great. And from the field as a whole, Syracuse basketball is connecting on 41.5 percent, which is sub-par.
Even more alarming, to me, is the Orange’s rebounding performances in Hawaii. The ‘Cuse was out-rebounded by Tennessee, 48-33, and by 48-28 to Gonzaga. That, in turn, helped fuel a 14-5 edge in second-chance points for the Volunteers. The Bulldogs were even more dominant in second-chance points versus Syracuse basketball, owning a commanding 25-8 advantage.
According to SU Athletics, through its first five games, the Orange is averaging 35.4 rebounds per affair, while ‘Cuse foes are grabbing 43.6 rebounds per contest. That equates to a per-game margin for Syracuse basketball of minus 8.2, which to put it mildly is just awful.
Syracuse basketball collected 80-plus points in each of its first two non-conference affairs this season, and then the Orange scored 79 points in a four-point comeback win over Colgate last week.
However, in its first two encounters at the Maui Invitational versus top-15 teams, the ‘Cuse has failed to crack 60 points in either setback. On the 2023-24 campaign so far, the Orange is now averaging 72.8 points per meeting, while Syracuse basketball is giving up 74.6 points per game on defense.
The ‘Cuse has a ton of games left in 2023-24, although if I’m being honest, some of these statistics cited above have to be significantly improved upon if the Orange hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament next spring following a two-year absence.