During the season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: Teams seemed to have figured out how to contain Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams and his assist numbers have fallen off. Does this pose a concern?
Teams have drawn up a blueprint to slowing down Michael Carter-Williams.
Dating back to SU’s first loss of the season against Temple in December, opponents have contained the sophomore guard by playing him to score instead of giving him opportunities to find his teammates.
In non-conference play, Carter-Williams was consistently in double figures in assists, reaching that mark eight times. Against Monmouth on Dec. 8, Carter-Williams racked up 16 assists.
But against Temple on Dec. 22, the Owls cut off Carter-Williams’ passing lanes, and instead dared him to shoot. He did, 17 times, making just three shots. In Big East play, Carter-Williams has had just double figure assists just once.
“They forced him to shoot from the Temple game on,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said following Syracuse’s 76-65 win over Seton Hall on Saturday. “They’re making him go to the basket and not coming off to help.”
The obvious solution here is to make opposing teams pay for that strategy. But to this point, Carter-Williams has been inconsistent in the scoring column.
The Pirates employed the same strategy against Carter-Williams, and he went 3 for 10 from the field. But a closer examination revealed that the numbers were even worse than that. The three baskets game on dunks on fast breaks early in the game. Otherwise, he was 0 for 7 on shots.
Though Carter-Williams finished with 14 points, most of his offense came from the free throw line, where he notched eight points.
“If I’m open I’ll shoot the ball,” Carter-Williams said. “I took some tough shots today that I could’ve done something a little different. It’s all about learning and moving on to the next game.”
If Carter-Williams can be a more consistent outside threat and finish in the lane, that will give him more opportunities to find his teammates.
The math has been simple to this point. In Big East losses, Carter-Williams averages 4.6 apg. In Big East wins? 6.7 apg.
“He’s got to be able to finish if they’re not going to respect his offense,” Boeheim said. “It’s hard to get a lot of assists in some of these games if they’re playing like that. They’ve been playing him consistently like that since the Big East started.”