first_imgJacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo EditorBiggest disappointment: Bad defense against bad teamsIf a snippet of game time was to represent Syracuse’s nonconference slate, it would probably be the 70 seconds when St. John’s threw down three wide-open dunks in a game that was already decided. It almost seemed like the Orange had given up, but it wasn’t an isolated incident in which the 2-3 zone acted as swiss cheese against teams that had no business finding holes against it. Last season, SU allowed an average of 65.1 points per game, which included games holding Virginia, Duke and Gonzaga to below 65 points. This year, North Florida, Boston University, Georgetown and St. John’s have all plastered 70 or more points on Jim Boeheim’s zone, which at one point Boeheim said wasn’t the reason SU was losing games.But after 13 tests before ACC play begins Sunday at Boston College, it’s clear there are more holes than stopgaps in Syracuse’s defense, and this year’s ACC only threatens to expose them more. BU’s Cedric Hankerson and North Florida’s Dallas Moore each posted 30 or more points on the Orange. Now SU will face players like Jaron Blossomgame, London Perrantes and a handful of players on Duke, Louisville and North Carolina that can exploit a struggling defense more than bad teams have already done. — Matt Schneidman Ally Moreo | Photo EditorBiggest pleasant surprise: Taurean ThompsonThompson entered the year as an unknown forward in an already crowded frontcourt, but he’s stepped in and shined immediately offensively. Boeheim has repeatedly said he’s the Orange’s best low-post scorer and it’s “not even close.”Entering conference play, Thompson ranks as SU’s third leading scorer with 9.1 points per game without having started once and averaging just 17 minutes per contest. In the past five games, Thompson has reached new heights, scoring in double figures on four occasions, including 22 against Boston University and 18 against Cornell. Following a lineup reshuffle from Boeheim midway through the year, Thompson has received a bulk of his minutes at center. He must improve defensively — Boeheim said, “he’s lost out there” — but on a team with several other options, Thompson’s emergence halfway through his freshman year was a surprise. — Paul Schwedelson Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments Jeff Anderson | Contributing PhotographerBiggest flaw: Interior defensePerhaps no area of the floor seemed more steady at the start of the season than Syracuse’s frontcourt. Tyler Roberson and Dajuan Coleman were the team’s only returning starters, and the onus was on them to smooth over the defensive learning curve for a relatively inexperienced team. Thirteen games later, Roberson isn’t even the first option off the bench and Coleman is averaging just over 17 minutes per game. Then there’s 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu, whose minutes evaporated after showing almost no ability to handle the ball, and that was before being sidelined with a torn retina in his right eye.In five losses, SU has yielded about 26 points in the paint per game. That wasn’t a huge deal against St. John’s or UConn, who stung the Orange elsewhere on the floor. But teams like Wisconsin and South Carolina dominated Syracuse down low. Even Cornell scored 30 of its 56 points on Tuesday in the paint. The lack of consistent personnel in the frontcourt has certainly contributed to this problem. Thompson is getting more runs at center, and the offensively gifted big man hasn’t been nearly as productive on the other end of the floor. He, like most of his teammates, could help swing Syracuse’s fortunes with a sounder performance on defense. — Connor Grossman  Published on December 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm Although expectations were high following a Final Four run — including head coach Jim Boeheim saying before the season that he’d never had as much depth as this team would have — Syracuse (8-5) struggled in the first portion of the season. The five nonconference losses is a school record and after a brutal 93-60 loss to St. John’s, Boeheim said he wasn’t sure what he was doing with this team.Syracuse men’s basketball beat writers Connor Grossman, Matt Schneidman and Paul Schwedelson award superlatives to the Orange midway through the season.MVP: Andrew WhiteThroughout most of Syracuse’s nonconference turbulence, it was a scary thought to imagine where the team would be without the contributions of White. The fifth-year transfer from Nebraska immediately sparked SU’s offense as the leading point scorer in six of the first eight games. He’s pacing the Orange with 14.8 points per game, 39 3s (averaging three per game) and 32.9 minutes per game. No Atlantic Coast Conference player has buried more 3s than White.The biggest knock on White is his second-half inefficiencies. Twice he’s led Syracuse in scoring without tallying a single point in the final 20 minutes. His offensive numbers have also slowed the past few games as Tyler Lydon has risen, highlighting SU’s overall lack of cohesion. But on the larger scale, White has been the one-man show on offense when the Orange has needed it the most. Given Syracuse’s precarious spot, White will need to match, if not exceed, his non-conference performance for SU to level with most of its ACC opponents. — Connor GrossmanAdvertisementThis is placeholder text Tony D. Curtis | Staff PhotographerBiggest X-factor going forward: Tyus BattleThe combination of Battle’s athletic 6-foot-6 frame and a jump shot that’s been better than expected makes him a potential weapon Syracuse can use in ACC play. He’s flashed his potential throughout the first half of the year but has been hampered by a nagging left foot injury. He hasn’t missed a game, but was removed from the starting lineup for a three-game stretch and missed a week of practice midway through December. Boeheim said he didn’t want to use him against Georgetown on Dec. 17 due to the injury, but turned to the freshman when SU’s guards struggled.Battle’s 43.6 3-point shooting percentage ranks second on Syracuse behind only Tyler Lydon. His 2-point field-goal percentage, however, stands at 37.5 percent, the worst of any SU rotation player. If Battle can stay 100 percent healthy — he’s said he’s moved past the injury — if he improves driving to the basket and if he converts higher-percentage shots at the rim, he could arguably be the Orange’s most dynamic offensive player. The only issue is that those are big ifs. — Paul SchwedelsonWho is the biggest X-factor for Syracuse men’s basketball going forward?— Daily Orange Sports (@DOsports) December 31, 2016@DOsports Frank Howard.— Steve Wilson (@cuseguysteve) December 31, 2016 @DOsports No chemistry— J Bone (@SyrNYBones) December 31, 2016@DOsports n too many new players & the mix isn’t good! Point guard issues— Mike Paul (@miketpaul) December 31, 2016last_img

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