After starting the season 6-0, the first five games were against non-power conference teams. Syracuse is beginning to get into the bulk of their schedule. The Orange have Kansas up next this weekend, followed by UCONN, which is always a fun game to watch. Now it’s time to see how Syracuse handles themselves versus quality opponents.
To open the season, Syracuse beat Cornell, Iona, Texas Southern, Oakland, Toledo, and Maryland. The closest game was the latter as Syracuse came away with a very dramatic 72-70 win in the Carrier Dome Monday night. It was a great win. I watched the whole game, and the Orange played as a team and looked phenomenal. The only bad thing was the three-point shooting. As a team, they shot 3-18 from beyond the arc. That’s an abysmal 16.7%. However, Tyus hit a very clutch corner three to take the lead late in the game, which led the Orange to the victory. But, it’s great to see the team get a quality non-conference win, something we didn’t have last year, in a game that we shot so poorly from three.
I was lucky enough to get to go to the Syracuse game vs Toledo live. The most impressive thing I saw that game was the emergence of Frank Howard. When Battle went out with an injury in the 2nd half, Howard took command of the offense and looked great doing it. Howard ended up with 25 points, which lead the Orange. Another pleasant surprise during that game was Oshae Brissett, who finished the game with a double-double, 17 points, and 14 rebounds. Brisset followed up his performance with another double-double against a very good Maryland team. Brissett had 15 points and 13 rebounds that game.
Frank Howard has been great so far, this year. Howard is averaging over 15 points per game, just over 5 assists, and over 3 assists per game. He has really stepped up his game this year when we needed him most. Howard is turning into a great game manager and he finally looks comfortable on the court. I feel like that is because there is less pressure on him. He knows that he is the starting point guard which gives him the comfort of knowing that he can make a mistake and not get pulled from the game. I feel like he wasn’t able to play comfortably, and he was too afraid to make mistakes last season. Now he is more willing to take some chances and shoot more often, and he looks really good so far.
I think the biggest bright spot this year so far for the Orange has been the rebounding. If you watched Syracuse games last year, you probably remember them getting outrebounded game-in-and-game-out. This year, so far, has been a different story. The Orange have been outrebounding every team they have played. It’s a good sign that our big men are doing their jobs down low. And when you have players like Sidibe, who’s 6’10”, Chukwu, who is 7’2”, and Brissett, who gets rebounds like it’s his job, there is no reason why they can’t out-rebound most teams.
One thing that has worried me early on this season is Syracuse’s ability to score. Yes, they have won their first 5 games, but, they haven’t scored over 80 points in any game so far. And this is with Tyus Battle averaging around 20 points per game. So, what happens when they play a team with a high-powered offense and can put up 90 points per game? Or, what happens if Tyus Battle has an off day and only scores 5 points? And I haven’t seen a game that yet this year where Syracuse has played 40 minutes of quality basketball. It seems like there is a seven-to ten-minute chunk of time in each game where Syracuse does not look very good. So, there are definitely some problems that need to be fixed before we get too deep into the season.
But, lucky for us, the defense has looked outstanding so far this year. The most points they have given up was 70 to Maryland. And Maryland got 23 points from one player, who was averaging 10 going into that game. Syracuse finally has some length in the 2-3 zone, and it’s showing. I already touched on the height of Chukwu and Sidibe, who are both holding down the middle of the zone, but everyone else seems to be stepping up too. Syracuse is averaging 8.8 steals per game, and 7.8 blocks per game. I feel like this is the best 2-3 zone Syracuse has had in a long time.