With 21 games already in the books, it should be pretty apparent that the Syracuse basketball team’s roster is filled with lots of imperfect players. The roster is one of the youngest in college basketball, a 215-pound forward who is currently on the shelf is the bulkiest player, and there are a lot of offensive skills that need to be developed.
Again, a lot of offensive skills to be developed. On the offensive end of the floor, the Orange often appear comprised of some of the residents of basketball’s “Island of Misfit Toys”.
There is Frank Howard, the point guard who has committed only four turnovers in his last three games combined to get to under four turnovers per game on the season, but has also transformed himself from a player with a frequently broken jump shot into the team’s best three-point shooter.
Paschal Chukwu, who had 102 career points and a sub-.500 mark from the line before this season, averages over six points per game and is on a 27-of-34 streak from the stripe. Of course, he has problems catching the ball in traffic and sometimes muscling back up after an offensive rebound.
Matthew Moyer and Marek Doelzaj combine to be a forward who is either not allowed to look at the rim from beyond the arc (Moyer) or must be cajoled into shooting a 12-foot jumper when left wide open (Dolezaj). Oshae Brissett is the only player taller than 6’6” on the roster who seems to be allowed to shoot from outside the paint and he has made just one-third of his field goal attempts.
Even Tyus Battle, who averages just shy of 20 points per outing, has a lot of nights when he reaches that plateau through a hot streak that lasts for a half or even just eight, maybe ten minutes of play.
When looking at these players’ collective body of work, it is apparent that Wednesday night’s blitz of Boston College is the offensive aberration, not a new level for the Orange offense. The team made 29 field goals that night, a mark surpassed only against Oakland and tied against Cornell. It was just the third time this season the team made at least half of their shots (Buffalo, Colgate) and their 60.4 percent field goal mark was by far their best of the season.
The team is shooting 42.8 percent from the floor and only 32 percent on threes. Seven times this season, including in four of eight ACC games, SU has made less than 40 percent of their shots.
As a unit, Syracuse sports an overall assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.879-to-1 and 0.721-to-1 ratio in ACC play. They are last in assists in ACC play.
With this extensive a list of offensive issues, perhaps the best solution for Orange fans is to simply embrace the slowdown style of play that relies on their defense to drag down the opposition to below their level.
Even with as woefully as SU has shot the ball this season, they have only shot worse than the opposing team six times. The Orange are first in ACC play in field goal percentage allowed and second in points allowed per game.
The frontline composed of stick men is still outrebounding opponents in ACC play. It is not pretty and they have to fight hard to do it, but Syracuse has collected more rebounds than they have given up in conference action. The Orange have won the battle on the boards five times and won four of those games with #2 Virginia as the exception.
So, while it is not aesthetically pleasing and sometimes even painful to watch, Syracuse is still doing a pretty good job getting it done, even with a slow pace of play that helps opponents stay close against an offense is not capable of blowing out good teams.
Perhaps the truest sign of this Syracuse team being a group of misfits is the one that separates them from one of the biggest stereotypes of Orange teams. This bunch is second in the ACC in free throw shooting percentage and in free throws made per game.