Big Ten Basketball: Midseason Report

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By Ashley Kirklen
ashley.kirklen@gmail.com

Friday, February 1, 2013

Syracuse basketball had some fairly lofty expectations prior to the start of the season, despite losing top talents and team leaders in Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Fab melo. Thus far, the Orange to this point, haven’t disappointed. Having only lost one game to the Temple Owls, Syracuse appears to have the necessary talent, and look poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tourney. Now, we’ll look at what Syracuse has done well to get to this point, and what they can still improve on to continue the season as a contender.

The Syracuse Orange’s biggest and perhaps most critical strength is depth. To make a strong run in the big dance, a team needs to have a deep bench. Syracuse boasts a nine man rotation that allows more rest for the starters than most teams. All nine players are averaging more than ten minutes a game. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams see the majority of the minutes. Cuse’s frontcourt is the deepest area for the team. The starters are Dajuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and C.J. Fair. Coach Jim Boeheim has shown he’s comfortable bringing in players such as James Southerland, Baye Keita and Jerami Grant as reinforcements when rest is needed for the starters. In fact, Southerland has taken on the sixth-man role averaging 26 minutes, 13.4 points (2nd on team) and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Another area Syracuse excels in is scoring. Despite a mediocre field goal percentage (47%), the Orange rank fifth in the country, averaging 83 points a game. What’s most impressive is that it isn’t coming from just one or two players. Brandon Triche, James Southerland, C.J. Fair, and Michael Carter-Williams all average over ten points a game.
The team’s three-point shooting has been more than remarkable, making their offense a nightmare for opposing defenses. Jerami Grant, James Southerland and C.J. Fair are all averaging over forty percent from long distance. Brandon Triche also chips in, averaging 36 percent.

Syracuse has long been known for their team defense; a product of Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone. This year is no different. The zone is a weapon that continually comes in handy during tournament time, when teams are given only a couple days to prepare for games.

Typically teams that make use of a zone defense give up a little in their ability to rebound, but for the Orange that has not been the case. Syracuse ranks fifth in the nation in rebounding, grabbing 44 a game. C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman, Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas are each averaging over five boards a game.

Though it appears Syracuse is doing everything right, there are still areas the team can/need to improve on to make life easier on themselves.

The biggest problem for the team has been foul shooting. As a team they shoot only 65 percent from the line, placing them at 274th in the nation. Only Trevor Cooney and C.J. Fair average over 80 percent. After that there is a significant drop off. Michael Carter-Williams is next shooting 73 percent from the stripe. Only six players on the entire team are shooting over 50 percent.

Though Carter-Williams has been a solid point guard, he has frustrated Orange fans with his tendency to turn the ball over. On the season he has 54, seventeen more than Brandon Triche, who has the second most turnovers.

Though scoring doesn’t appear to be an issue, an emphasis on better ball movement could help the offense become more dangerous. Michael Carter-Williams has dished out a staggering ten assists per game, but exclude his name from the stat sheet, and assists are nearly non-existent. Guard Brandon Triche averages 3.6 assists, while James Southerland and Trevor Cooney average only one per game.

Though it’s still early, Cuse has looked impressive. The roster Coach Boeheim has assembled has shown they possess the qualities necessary for a deep run in March. If the team can continue to build on their 13-1 record by improving their free throw shooting, ball movement, and ball control, the Orange can help position themselves for a successful postseason.


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