Afterthoughts: Jim Boeheim said Syracuse ‘almost never’ loses because of defense. Then it did.

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse added four new players to its rotation this season — two fifth-year graduate transfers and two freshmen — and they all agreed adjusting to head coach Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense presented the transition’s most difficult challenge.  That’s still apparent 12 games into the season.The rotations, traps and close-outs have all been lacking. After nearly every game this season, Boeheim pointed out there’s room for improvement. Syracuse was a new team, so this was anticipated.But now, the explanation of being new has gotten old. The Orange (7-5) was throttled, 93-60, by St. John’s (6-7) after its defense failed and SU didn’t even compete in the second half. Point guard Frank Howard said the team has to do some soul-searching. Syracuse has six days between its most devastating home loss in the Boeheim era and its next game. And then conference play starts. And it only gets tougher from there.The Orange is in such a bad spot the 41-year head coach said he doesn’t even know what he’s doing with this team. By this point in the year, Boeheim said his team’s defense should be better than it is. But based on the way the Orange has been playing, 0-5 against major-conference opponents, Boeheim said SU’s 33-point loss to St. John’s was “totally expected.”After Syracuse’s first loss of the year on Nov. 26 to South Carolina, 64-50, Boeheim blamed the offense. Losses are “almost never” because of defense, he said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSeven games and four more losses later, though, SU is still figuring out Boeheim’s zone. St. John’s picked it apart by getting the ball into the high post. When the defense has been beat over the years, that’s where it’s often been. The Red Storm executed to a T and the Orange crumbled.“We just broke down on defense,” fifth-year senior center Dajuan Coleman said Wednesday night.“Execution. Defense. That’s it,” fifth-year transfer guard John Gillon said.“We’re not where we want to be,” fifth-year transfer wing Andrew White said.On too many ocassions this year, Syracuse’s guards have been slow to rotate to open perimeter shooters. (See: 11 3-pointers allowed to North Florida, 16 to Boston University and 12 to St. John’s). Guards Gillon and White, for their college basketball experience, are inexperienced in the unique defensive scheme.Syracuse has a 37.2 percent “minutes continuity rate,” a Kenpom.com statistic measuring the percentage of players’ minutes carried over from prior season. This means the Orange ranks 282nd in the country and falls well below the Division I average of 49.6 percent. When playing a defense that requires every player to move in rhythm, the Orange breakdowns from new players have shown effects. They came to a head against the Red Storm.“Good question,” Boeheim said when asked why St. John’s was able to find open space on the perimeter. “That’s what they did.”The Orange will begin Atlantic Coast Conference play on Jan. 1, providing SU with a double-edged sword. The competition will be stiff and Syracuse could play itself back into NCAA Tournament contention, or it could keep losing more and more.In the offseason, Jim Boeheim told ESPN that this is the best team he’s had in a long time. Twelve games in, it’s proven to be one of his worst. Comments Published on December 22, 2016 at 12:39 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschwedslast_img

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