Basketball is a beautiful game: five athletes trying to move as one, using a multitude of strategies and schemes on both offense and defense. It can also be complicated, as a battle of wills and a battle of wits, at the same time. But, it is also wonderfully simplistic at it’s core objective; put the ball in the hole.
If you want to know why Syracuse is 7-3, it’s because two of Syracuse’s shooters—Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson—simply can’t accomplish that core objective of the sport they play.
I’m not saying Richardson and Cooney are the only reasons Syracuse is 7-3, and fell from the top 25 just as quickly as they ascended to No. 14, but the numbers, well, they speak for themselves.
The brick brothers have each shot 33 percent from the field on the season. Cooney plays 38 minutes and Richardson plays 32 minutes per game. They take 40 percent of the team’s shots. If the rest of the team made 60 percent of its shots, the team as a whole would still be shooting under 50 percent from the floor.
Hang on, it gets worse. In the three losses thus far, they’ve shot 17 for 73 combined. Simple math tells us that’s 23.3 percent.
On the flip side, the starting forwards have shot 43, 53, and 50 percent in the three losses. They’ve played basically the same in both the wins and losses. Can’t put the blame on them.
And you know what, the other beautiful thing about basketball is you don’t need advanced stats to understand certain things. If you watched the game against St. John’s, you saw a tough full-court press at the end of the game consistently turnover the Johnnies, only to cringe as Cooney or Richardson missed shot after shot, and squandered countless opportunities to get back into the game.
These weren’t tough contested shots either. Thanks to Michael Gbinije’s efficiency, he was shadowed and was able to find his teammates for wide-open looks. I can only imagine how he felt watching one after the other clank off the rim.
Yes, the team is lacking a big-man on both the offensive post and defensive end- no disrespect to Lydon who is doing admirable job in the middle but is over-matched.
Yes, the team is getting killed on the boards. Yes, the team doesn’t have its head coach for nine games. And, yes, the team is playing a tougher non-conference schedule than ever before. But still, if those guys shoot 33 percent in those games, the Orange could be 10-0 despite all of its glaring flaws.
This team won’t win without shooting. That’s how it came together during the first 5 games of the season, and also how it quickly came unglued.
If Syracuse can’t count on its two sharpshooters to shoot a minimum of 33 percent and put the ball in the hole, then SU has some serious problems and it might be time to consider some line-up tweaks.