The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team have gone in the opposite direction this season than they have in previous seasons. Instead of getting better, the Orange appear to be falling deeper into a funk.
Here are ways to improve their play as they step into their most crucial piece of their season:
Utilize the shot clock:
Syracuse has a tendency to take the quick shot. Sometimes it is on the perimeter, other times they may be rushing down the lane. Either way, they do not always provide each other with time to set up and then survey the court for opportunities. Along with that, expanding their possessions early on takes more time away from their opponent, which can also prove beneficial.
Move the ball more:
The Orange have been faced with zones more often than not in their most recent matches. Taking a page from their opponents' playbooks, zones can be beat by constantly moving the ball around because no one defender has a set person they are covering. The faster Syracuse moves the ball, the more likely there will be of having someone open to take a shot.
Use better shot selection:
Syracuse has proven that they are not a productive jump shooting team. However, when you look at their losses, the Orange have taken more jump shots than any close-to-the-rim attempts. In their loss to the Connecticut Huskies alone, 55 of Syracuse's 65 attempts were jump shots. The Orange made a mere 17 of those 55 attempted jump shots. It sounds simple, but this motto can help moving forward: "If you can't make 'em, don't take 'em".
Do not panic:
Going along with the aforementioned shot-clock woes, the Orange have to remain more calm when they are playing from behind. They have a tendency to force three-point shots right after their opponent makes one as well as taking threes to shorten the deficit faster when there is plenty of time to play. Giving themselves a breath on offense can be the difference between coming back from a manageable deficit rather than playing themselves out of a game.
Produce more from offensive rebounds:
Sometimes Syracuse gets to the offensive glass more than their opponent, on other occasions they end matches with less boards on the offensive end. Either way, the most important thing about offensive rebounds is what you produce off of them. There have been multiple occasions where the Orange give them the opportunity to start anew on offense but come up with no points. In their last match of the regular season versus the Georgetown Hoyas, Syracuse amounted three points on eight offensive rebounds.
Get the ball to C.J. Fair:
Fair is the team's best shooter. He is their only consistent jump shooting threat. The junior forward has made at least one attempt from beyond the arc in 17 of the 24 games where he has launched from long range. He made the only three-pointer from 11 attempts the Orange took against the Hoyas in the final game of the regular season.
He made no less than five of his attempts in 10 of Syracuse's last 11 contests in the regular season.
Overall, Fair has shot 50% or better in 16 matches, and has had more than 40% accuracy in 22 of the team's 31 games.
Fair has been successful from any angle on the floor, both outside and inside the three-point line. He also is one of the only players who provides any consistency in attacking the rim for high-percentage opportunities as well as drawing fouls. Not to mention, his inside game, including one-handed jumpers, is another strong suit.
The man made jump shots in an outdoor game on top of the USS Midway off the coast of California when neither his teammates nor San Diego State were able to follow suit. I say trust the guy who can be successful when he has more excuses not to be. Little keeps Fair down, except when no one decides to pass him the ball.
Dictate the pace of the game:
Teams that beat Syracuse tell Syracuse how the game is going to be played, which is met by the Orange doing nothing to alter the match to fit them better.
Your opponent is not going to help you. If the Orange want control of the game, they have to be willing to take it.
Syracuse is most productive when out in transition, getting ahead of their opponent for high-percentage opportunities. Failing to make the match more up-tempo typically forces the Orange into jump shooting, which is where they find their most struggles.