After all the hype about the Syracuse Orange joining the ACC, Syracuse could not have made a worse first impression in their first ACC game. The Orange did not look like the best team in the country, as they played their worst offensive game of the season, scoring a meager 49 points, and narrowly escaping with a win against the Miami Hurricanes, one of the bottom teams in the ACC heading into conference play.
The biggest problem the Orange had in this game was the shooting struggles of guard Trevor Cooney, who has been one of the best perimeter shooters in the country this year, and entered the game shooting well over 50 percent from beyond the arc. However, Cooney made just two of his 12 three-point attempts, which hindered the Syracuse offense all game long.
Syracuse has two other wins this season in games where Cooney has struggled to score, but in those games, opposing defenses focused on Cooney and prevented him from taking shots. In this game, Cooney was able to get shots, but missed, exposing a flaw in the Syracuse offense.
Without Cooney making perimeter shots, Syracuse has no real outside shooting threat, which limits the open space available for point guard Tyler Ennis to drive to the basket. It also crowds the paint, which makes it more difficult for Syracuse’s frontcourt players to score inside. The Orange survived Miami because Ennis and C.J. Fair made clutch plays late while the Hurricanes failed to execute on the offensive end as well. However, against a better team, the Orange would have been in trouble.
Cooney has been been a reliable scorer for much of the season and a driving force on the Syracuse offense, so he shouldn’t have too many off nights, but when he does, the Orange could find themselves in trouble, especially without any other perimeter shooters to go to.
This game also continued a trend of Syracuse playing down to their competition against weaker teams. They’ve managed to overcome sluggish starts in several of their games, but now that conference play has started, they need to be sharp for 40 minutes if they don’t want to get into close games against weaker teams that can beat them if one of their key players has an off night.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.