Know Your Enemy: Previewing the Syracuse Orange

A.J. Black

The Boston College Eagles face off with the Syracuse Orange tonight in the Carrier Dome. To help prepare for the game we talked to Syracuse writer Brian Harrison of Orange, to get his perspective on the team and the 2019-20 season . Follow Brian on Twitter for all your Syracuse news and opinion.

AJ Black: It has been an up and down season so far for Syracuse as the Orange sit at 9-7. What has been the source of inconsistency so far for Jim Boheim and the Orange?

Brian Harrison: Early in the year it was definitely the offense. Adjusting to losing a senior point guard is a fairly large adjustment for any offense, but especially one with so many young players. But after Boeheim inserted Joe Girard into the starting lineup at the point, the offense has flowed much better and they have really improved. 

The real issue at this point is the defense. While the 2-3 Zone is the same as it ever was, Buddy Boeheim and Girard up front aren't as tall, and more importantly, not as long as the ideal guards in the system. Thus Syracuse isn't creating as many turnovers as they usually do, which leads to less transition points. Additionally, it means the wings have to work harder to cover shooters, leaving the paint more vulnerable than most other years. Syracuse has to lead the nation in "Dumb Fouls Against Jump Shooters", which also doesn't help. However, without a massive low post presence from the opposing team, Syracuse can defend just enough to be able to win some games.

Black: What is the strength of this Orange team?

Harrison: It's definitely the shooting. On any given night Boeheim, Girard, and Elijah Hughes could take and make long threes. Hughes has the ability to become All-ACC and lead the team as the go to guy. Boeheim will obviously be able to add points. Girard has shown to be absolutely fearless and should get better with more playing time. And the aggressiveness of these three in looking to score more is the reason the offense has gotten better as the season has progressed.

Black Talk a little about Buddy Boeheim. Clearly he is not just another "coaches kid", what makes him such a dangerous player?

Harrison: Boeheim can obviously shoot from long range, but he is also able to drive in the lane and either finish at the rim, or hit mid-range from the foul line. You can see massive improvement from him this past off-season, which is always a good sign. But he's the quintessential coach's kid. He grew up around the game, going to Syracuse games, watching games with his dad, and he clearly absorbed most of it. He's the best pure shooter on the team, and possibly the best shooter Syracuse has had in the last 25 years, however that is to be determined. Although, he is on pace to break the Syracuse single-season record for made threes.

Black: The X Factor of this team is _____________________

Harrison: Marek Dolezaj. He's the clear glue guy of the team. Lately he has been a rebound and assist machine. He's doing the little things, always plays hard, and all while being tossed around like a rag doll. If he plays well and contributes to the stat sheet in a couple of ways, and scores a few points along the way, he can keep Syracuse in games. Just epitomizes toughness and grit and does a lot of things that don't end up on the stat sheet that will help your team win.

Black: Syracuse will win if ____________________

Harrison: They are able to score in the paint. Syracuse is going to make three point baskets. But they obviously can't exclusively rely on them. They can do this two ways. They can either hit some threes early, which should loosen up the defense in the lane to allow Hughes, Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, or possibly even Quincy Guerrier some buckets near the hoop. Or, they can drive and get BC into some foul trouble and make free throws, which should also loosen up the defense on the perimeter due to help defense coming inside. Either way, Syracuse hasn't been able to rely exclusively on three point buckets to win games, and that won't be the case tonight.

Black: Boston College will win if _____________________

Harrison: They can shut down Syracuse shooters. BC will get opportunities on offense. But they way they will win is if they are able to cause a Syracuse scoring drought and earn or hold a lead. Syracuse hasn't really proved that they can consistently come back in games from behind and close out games. It took five extra minutes at Virginia to earn the upset, and managing to get down only four to seven points against Notre Dame in the final few minutes doomed them to a loss. BC will have to make sure Syracuse can't overcome their scoring droughts by not allowing Boeheim, Girard, or Hughes to go off and either reclaim the lead, or put the game out of reach.