How is it that a team that added Malachi Richardson completely fell apart down the stretch offensively? I had expectations of at least a semifinal run for Boeheim’s Army in 2020. A 65-48 beatdown in the quarterfinals was not supposed to be in the cards. Two things were missing: zone defense and Carmelo Anthony.
There was something very Syracuse-esque about the collapse in the second half. All loyal ‘Cuse fans have seen the Orange offense hit a devastating scoring drought at a crucial moment. Even by those standards, this rough patch was particularly rough. The Orange alumni finished 20-66 from the field and 4-27 from behind the arc.
After a great defensive effort to keep things close early, the Boeheim Army’s offense could not buy a bucket. With 4:02 remaining, ‘Cuse trailed 33-32. The quarter ended 48-34 and only got worse from there. Sideline Cancer went on a 24-2 run through the end of the third quarter into the fourth. Syracuse simply bricked one shot after another. The offense was way too comfortable settling for jumpers from the outside.
You have to wonder what impact Tyler Lydon would have been to this squad had he not pulled out of the tournament because of a hip injury. He is a reliable outside shooter with the size to make plays on the inside. Chris McCullough would have been a nice fit as well, but he opted out for personal reasons, the second straight year he has missed out on TBT. In the end, the ‘Cuse alumni desperately needed a go-to scorer in those minutes as their shots weren’t falling.
Eric Devendorf has filled that go-to scoring role on so many occasions for both Syracuse and Boeheim’s Army. He led the team with 14 points in the loss. However, it took him 16 shots to get there.
Even when Devendorf wasn’t up to the task, this roster was full of players who displayed that necessary “killer instinct” during their time in Central New York. Richardson dominated the NCAA tournament in the midst of a Final Four run. Donte Greene averaged 17.7 points per game during his one season with the Orange. Richardson hit one shot the entire game. Green shot 31 percent from the floor.
There is simply only one logical solution for this team. It needs Carmelo Anthony.
Without a doubt the most talented basketball player to ever come through the program, Melo is still chasing an NBA career. He had a bit of a resurgence this season with the Blazers after failed stints with the Rockets and Thunder.
As fans watched shot after shot come up short, it became obvious the team needed a go-to scorer. That is the one thing that Anthony can still bring to the table in the later stages of his NBA career. At 35, he averaged 15.3 points per game this season before the coronavirus halted the NBA season. That is against the best defenders in the world. Imagine what he could bring to the table playing in TBT. There are certainly some other candidates out there to link up with the ‘Cuse alumni squad, but Melo is unquestionably the crown jewel. His presence was never more missed than in the second half of the loss.
On top of that, where was the zone? You can certainly blame the cold stretch offensively for the lopsided scoreline, but issues appeared on the defensive end as well. Boeheim’s Army routinely struggled to get set defensively, often times running out to cover a wide-open shooter. They were killed on dribble drive penetration. The zone would not have halted all of that, but it certainly would have thrown a wrench into Sideline Cancer’s offensive rhythm.
Playing from behind in the zone is difficult, but we’ve seen Jim Boeheim himself break out some full court pressure looking to trap before falling back into the traditional 2-3 look. Maybe I am being hard on Kevin Belbey and his staff for not having the same level of basketball acumen as one of the greatest college coaches of all time, but it feels like an easy shift to halt the opponents momentum. Even if it has been a while, every Syracuse player is familiar with the principals of that zone.
It was brutal to watch, but maybe this loss will be enough to shock Boeheim’s Army into making some needed adjustments for 2021. We just hope Carmelo Anthony is part of that process.