With the sixth group of mostly Syracuse players having long since finished their recent tour of duty with Boeheim’s Army in The Basketball Tournament, we can try to figure out what happened in the bubble in Ohio. One of the strongest themes of the Army’s play this July, which we addressed in “The Juice on the ‘Cuse” podcast, was that they simply could not make shots.
Of the 23 teams to make it through coronavirus testing and play in this year’s tournament, Boeheim’s Army ranked 22nd in both field goal shooting percentage and three-point shooting percentage. As a result, they also ranked 22nd in scoring, averaging 9.5 points per game fewer than any other team to win a game in the event and rendering their tournament-best points per game allowed average meaningless.
Eric Devendorf was the only player to reach double digits in scoring and led the squad with 17 points per game. Savvy on the floor with his ability to finish drives in a variety of ways with either hand, Devendorf (50% FG) was his usual rock-solid self in this annual event. Aside from him and the lightning quick and flammable John Gillon (60% FG), most of the individual shooting numbers for the Army were ugly or worse:
- Andrew White III – 35% FG, 2/9 on threes
- Donte Greene – 28% FG, 1/13 on threes
- Malachi Richardson – 25% FG, 2/7 on threes
- Brandon Triche – 25% FG, 1/6 on threes
- Demetris Nichols – 0/6 FG, 0/5 on threes
Was 2020’s poor performance just a one-time thing, something that happens with no explanation? Or is it something more that we think little of because The Basketball Tournament is a one-off event once a year where the names and faces change… yet somehow, the same few teams have big expectations every time around?
Thanks to some help from Jake Pavorsky with TBT, I was able to dig up some historical numbers on how Boeheim’s Army has shot over their six runs for the big prize. And those numbers, at least for the players who provide most of the offense, are also generally ugly.
Of course, in an event like The Basketball Tournament, all the numbers are small sample sizes. Devendorf has played in every game for the Army and those 21 games are not much more than half the games in a typical Syracuse basketball season. Even so, the numbers of Devendorf and Gillon stick out among the players who enlist in the Army.
Over six tournaments and 21 games, Devendorf has made exactly half of his shots from the field (125-of-250) and just under 33 percent from long range. The top scorer for Boeheim’s Army in each of the last five tournaments, Devendorf has averaged between 15 and 21.1 points per game in each tournament and 17.1 points per game in TBT play. While his three-point shooting results have been more volatile from year to year, especially in the downward direction thanks to some rushed late-game shots while the Army was facing elimination, Devendorf has shot between 46.7 percent and 54.8 percent in each tournament.
John Gillon has been a source of instant offense as a reserve who should be bucking for a promotion to the starting lineup. While his size is not ideal for the 2-3 zone generally deployed by the Army, Gillon has only once shot below 50 percent overall and has made 51.7 percent of his threes in his four appearances. He has also exploded for 26 and 32 points in two individual games in different years.
And then, there are the other guys who shot poorly this summer.
In Donte Greene’s other TBT appearance, he shot just over 32 percent overall and 25 percent from deep in four games, riding a 32-point outing to a 14-point average… which means he scored more in that game than in the other three combined. This year’s poor result falls in line with those marks.
Demetris Nichols’ rough outing this time hurts his overall strong numbers, as his 2015 and 2018 appearances totaled over 15 points per game and nearly 50 percent shooting from deep (19-for-39 in eight games). Nichols, though, is closing in on 36 years of age and may be wrapping up on his professional career.
In the television coverage of every game, the fact that Brandon Triche is the winningest player in Syracuse history gets mentioned, but his four TBT appearances span 14 games during which he shot 33 percent from the field and 27.3 percent overall. He has never shot 40 percent in a single tournament and just once made over 30 percent from beyond the arc. His 24-for-65 mark on two-pointers (36.9 percent) leaves a lot to be desired, as well.
Andrew White III has only appeared in the last two tournaments, but his poor results this summer pretty closely mirror his 2019 stats. White shot 32 percent overall and 29.4 percent from deep the first time around while posting 35.3 percent shooting on field goals and just 22.2 percent from long range this time.
In contrast, Hakim Warrick posted stat lines in his four appearances that fit right in with his game, coming in at a shade over 56 percent from the floor and 30 percent from deep. The seemingly ageless forward averaged double figures in each tournament, including 12 points per game in a reduced role in 2019. Maybe the Army should see if Warrick is actually ageless.
Even the non-Syracuse players who have joined Boeheim’s Army profile as literally hit-and-miss. Willie Deane, the rock-solid point guard who was part of the team for their first two appearances, shot 55.7 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from behind the arc in seven games over two appearances.
On the other side of the coin is the player who was supposed to be a ringer in 2019, Jordan Crawford. Ballyhooed for his explosive scoring ability before the tournament, Crawford finished his three games by shooting under 36 percent overall and 16.7 percent on triples. The Xavier alum had 15 points in the second half of his first game… and 23 points in the other two-and-a-half contests.
With there already being plans for another return engagement in 2021, Boeheim’s Army needs to figure out some different ammunition to bring, better deployment of its troops, or both. If they don’t, it will be yet another disappointing march home from TBT.