In the days leading up to each game, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: The Orange are shooting a woeful 18.2 percent from downtown through four games this season. Are you concerned?
In response to Matt Goodman’s article, which pointed out that Syracuse is shooting just 26.6% from downtown (ranking us 313th out of 347 Division I schools), and only 18.2% from deep when James Southerland’s stats are removed, including a woeful 14.75% (5-34) from our back-court rotation, I posed the following question to some fellow Syracuse fans/friends:
Nate Federman: So… is this a four game anomaly or are we just a terrible three-point shooting team this year? My sense is that our numbers will rise, but that our outside shooting might be something we struggle with at times over the course of the season. Brandon is anything but consistent; I was hoping he’d add a bit more arc to his shot, but it’s still as flat as ever, which is why he gets more bad bounces than just about any player I can remember and why he’ll likely finish the season shooting in the low 30’s from behind the arc.
MCW is 1-8 on the season, which I assume he’ll improve on. His form is better than Scoop’s was, but he strikes me as a similar style shooter in that he’ll knock down some huge shots in big moments, but not with any regularity.
CJ isn’t getting the ball on the outside for open looks the way he did his first two years, but given time (or when a team zones us), I think he’s fully capable of knocking down 3’s at least as well as Joseph did last year. James Southerland (or as Gabrielle Levine has so hilariously nicknamed him, “Mr. November”) has been great thus far, but I worry that when he’s not shooting against 6′ 4″ guys in easy games, his percentage will go down. Still, he looks like he has the best stroke on the team. The X-factor seems to be Cooney, who was supposed to be our sharp-shooter, but has really struggled thus far. Let’s hope he gets out of his slump in a hurry, maybe some of these other early season games (Monmouth, Canisius, Alcorn St., Central Connecticut) will afford him the opportunity to log some more minutes and regain his confidence.
In theory we should be a slightly better three-point shooting team than we were last year (MCW = Scoop, Triche = Triche, Southerland > Joseph, Fair (’12) > Fair (’11), Cooney > Waiters), but through our first four games we haven’t shown it. And if it doesn’t start to happen soon, it’s cause for concern. More teams will zone us and while MCW shredded Princeton’s zone, something tells me he’ll have a tougher time doing that against quality Big East teams, meaning that we may end up living and dying by the three… something that seemed far less scary coming into the season, than it does right now.
Gabrielle Levine responded: That 18% from behind the arc includes Trevor’s 2-15. Take him out of the equation and we’re back up to 30%. I haven’t had the pleasure of watching him shoot in practice, but sources say he does not miss. Those numbers will go up.
Raymond Hutchison responded: I think the shooting (thus far) is more of a sample size error / early season nerves than anything else. I am optimistic that this year’s team, specifically Triche, will continue to benefit from what I like to think of as, The Devendorf Law: Good shooters become great shooters if they don’t have the reputation of being great shooters. I think this is in part due to the obvious basketball logic that if you have to guard the dribble drive it opens up your shot, but I also think there is something else that goes on here—college teams legitimately suffer from poor scouting and fall victim to the same assumptions we all do when we play basketball. There were things about Devo that made people leave him open a little more than they should have (He could drive and seemed like he wanted to drive, people didn’t talk much about his shooting ability, his shot wasn’t that pretty, etc.). I understand that Gmac and Rautins would have had higher shooting percentages if it weren’t for their reputations, but that doesn’t explain why people like Triche and Scoop (for gods sake Scoop is one of our best 3 point shooters ever!) shoot/shot so well, even though there is evidence (practice shooting, comments from coaches and players, ugly misses, etc.) that neither of these guys are/were the best shooters on the team. People leave Triche open like they left Flynn open. I can only hope that the media and other teams continue to ignore the fact that Triche may end his career as one of our best shooters ever and continue to concentrate on Cooney for the few minutes he is in the game.
Top 10 Syracuse 3 point shooters with over 200 attempts.
Jason Fritz responded: I remain fairly nervous about our guards. Shooting from deep will be an issue all year and we’ll start to see more zone against us. Fair and Southerland flashing to the FT line will be huge in those situations.
More importantly, I still see plenty of issues with ball handling and decision making. Both starters can look fine more often than not, but tend to get out of control on drives. I’m really concerned when they have to deal with pressure. There isn’t that third ball handler on the court to help bring it up (Joseph in recent years) with Fair/South being fairly weak in that area. There’s more pressure on MCW/Triche as it is. Arkansas is not a good defensive team but if they pressure full-court, they could make it tough for us. MCW needs to be clean and strong with the rock.
Chad Spader responded: We have to assume they WILL pressure, and I remain nervous about Friday.
That said, I’m ok with losses early. I think this team has the pieces to be peaking when it counts. I expect a lot of improvement, as there’s a TON of room for it.
I agree with you though. I’m more nervous about ball handling than shooting. Last year, there were 5 guys on the roster (Scoop, Triche, Waiters, Joseph, MCW) who could bring the ball up as opposed to the 2 they have now.
So there’s no clear consensus on whether or not Syracuse will end up being a good three-point shooting team, but most everyone seemed to think that the abysmal numbers they’ve put over their first 4 games are largely an anomaly. And as Fritz pointed out, when we begin to play more quality games, against more athletic competition, we may see other problems (ball-handling) start to become even more problematic than our inconsistent shooting from deep. Still, as Spader pointed out, this team has tons of potential they’ve yet to tap and if they’re able to realize that potential, something easier said than done, they could make some serious noise come March.Nate Federman