Syracuse takes on rival Georgetown for the 92nd time on Saturday. The Hoyas beat the Orange last season in their first matchup since Syracuse left the Big East.
This season, the game’s importance to SU goes beyond the rivalry. It has the chance to be the Orange’s best non-conference victory.
I examined two factors in Thursday’s column. Here are two more things to watch for on Saturday:
Tyler Lydon’s Usage
Lydon came into the season with big expectations. He was projected as a 1st round NBA Draft pick, and Boeheim said in the preseason that he anticipated Lydon to enter the draft.
But after 9 games, Lydon’s usage percentage, which is calculated based on the percentage of possessions in which he commits a turnover or takes a shot, is the 6th lowest among regular rotation players. His percentage of shots is only a hair better than Frank Howard’s or DaJuan Coleman’s.
For the Orange to be successful, Lydon needs to be more involved in the offense. Too often he has received the ball open at the top of the key and pump faked. Instead of creating offense for his teammates off the fake, he has hesitated and frequently past the ball back to a guard.
This may be the result of a lack of confidence, despite Boeheim’s exhortations for him to shoot more. He has taken 8.5 shots per game over the last four contests and only connected at 32 percent. His 3-point percentage over the full season is just 34.3 percent – 6 points lower than last season – while his effective shooting percentage has dropped from 57.2 percent to 47.3 percent.
These are not uncommon growing pains for a player transitioning from a role player to the primary scoring option. But if Syracuse is going to beat the Hoyas, they will need production from Lydon. SU started to put Lydon in new positions against BU, getting him the ball in the high post more often. Although it did not cure is long-distance shooting woes, Lydon did mange to sink 4 of 6 from inside the arc. Look for Syracuse to place Lydon in the high post once again on Saturday to get his offense going.
Finishing at the hoop
One of Boeheim’s biggest criticisms of his guards this season has been their inability to get to the basket. Too often, the Orange offense has consisted of passes around the perimeter until the shot clock gets low and a bad shot is forced up.
But even when SU’s guards have made it to the basket, they have struggled to score. Although Howard has produced numerous good looks at the basket driving to the right side, it seems like it has been multiple games since he got one of hits floaters to fall.
Howard is shooting just 35.2 percent on shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com. Tyus Battle has not been much better at 37.5 percent. For comparison, Michael Gbinije shot 63.5 percent at the rim last season, and despite his struggles Trevor Cooney made 45.2 percent. Some of the best guards in Hoop-Math’s 6-year-old database are Scoop Jardine (72.9 percent in ’11-12) and Brandon Triche (65.7 percent in ’12-13).
John Gillon has been better than Howard or Battle, finishing near the hoop at 60 percent, but SU needs more production from its starting guards. If they can finish effectively at the rim, defenses will adjust, and this will create more opportunities for kick outs to Lydon and Andrew White III.
Keep an eye out for Howard and Battle attacking the hoop against Georgetown. If they can score effectively, it will open up the entire SU offense.