If the Syracuse men’s basketball team’s recent trip to Italy is any indication, the 2019-20 version of the Orange will feature a vastly more exciting offense than we have seen in recent years.
We have to take the results with a grain of salt, of course. The competition, ranging from Italian teams All Star Varese to Virtus Roma, was not great. But from the eye test alone we know SU will feature a faster pace and more 3-point shooting.
In the four-game stretch, SU attempted almost as many 3s (145) as 2s (146). The hot shooting of Joe Girard III (11-25 for 44% from 3) and Buddy Boeheim (13-32 for 41% from 3) rightly dominated coverage following the trip.
But the real story was the Orange’s 2-point shooting. This was an underrated Achilles heel of the last several SU teams.
After shooting greater than 50% from 2 for each of the fives seasons 2008-2012, Syracuse has only achieved the feat once since. Last season, SU shot 49.3% on 2-point shots, which ranked just 213th in the country.
Some of last year’s worst offenders were also the team’s departures. Tyus Battle shot just 47.9% from inside the arc. Oshae Brissett, despite his physical presence, shot just 44.5%, including an atrocious 27.7% on 2-point jumpers. Frank Howard shot a meager 40.7% on 2s.
There was a lot of room to improve, and the Italy trip showed next year’s Syracuse team is up to the task. Across four Italian exhibition games, the team as a whole shot 55% from inside the arc.
Freshman Quincy Guerrier led the way, bullying his way to a YMCA-pick-up-game-esque 84% shooting percentage on 16-19 shots. Perhaps most encouragingly, Syracuse’s slashing guards finished effectively at the rim. Jalen Carey shot 15-23 (65%) on 2s, while Elijah Hughes went 10-18 (55%).
There is room for improvement, of course. Backup center Jesse Edwards finished just 8-18 against the smaller Italian competition. Sharpshooters Girard III and Boeheim managed to combine for a paltry 2-10 shooting on 2s, a percentage that was remarkably less than half of what they shot from behind the arc (42%).
But even if SU’s shooters have not yet rounded out their games with driving ability, they can space the floor. Multiple shooters on the wings will allow Carey, Guerrier and Hughes to slash to the basket at will.
Of course, the best way to improve the team’s 2-point percentage is to fast break. This team appears ready to run, so it should be a fun season for the Orange.