Following their win Saturday over the Pittsburgh Panthers, there’s no doubt that the Syracuse Orange are the top team in the ACC and in the driver’s seat when it comes to winning the conference championship in their inaugural season in the ACC. The Orange have found a way to win every game they’ve played this season, although their 5-0 record in conference play has been accomplished with shooting guard Trevor Cooney going through a slump. But while Syracuse has survived amidst Cooney’s struggles, should they be concerned?
Cooney was one of the top three-point shooters in the country over the first two months of the season, but he’s shooting just 24 percent from the perimeter since conference play started, including two games in which he’s made two three-point shots on 12 attempts. Cooney was bound to have one or two off nights after the way he shot the ball during Syracuse’s unblemished non-conference schedule, but five subpar games in a row is officially a slump.
Cooney proved against Boston College that he is far more than just a jump shooter as he made several great defensive plays that led to easy baskets while also showing the ability to attack the basket off the dribble. But outside of Cooney, Syracuse has a profound lack of capable outside shooters; as brilliant point guard Tyler Ennis is, a high percentage but low volume three-point shooter shouldn’t be counted on to make many perimeter shots.
Three-point shooting can be the great equalizer in college basketball, and while the threat of Cooney’s shooting ability remains a concern for all of Syracuse’s opponents, not having a lot of production from the perimeter could become a problem for the Orange. They’ve had trouble putting away inferior teams like Miami and Boston College without Cooney’s sharp shooting.
Cooney is bound to break out of his slump at some point as he had no problem making a high percentage of outside shots against quality opponents like Minnesota, California and Villanova during the non-conference season. But not having at least one reliable three-point shooter makes Syracuse more vulnerable than they were earlier in the season when Cooney was almost unstoppable from deep. More importantly, with each game that Cooney continues to struggle his confidence level drops, and that could become a long-term problem for the Orange if it isn’t remedied soon.
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.