Syracuse basketball roundtable: How SU can make the NCAA Tournament, the Orange’s x-factor and more

first_imgWhat do you think Syracuse has to do in the ACC tournament to make the NCAA Tournament?Sam Blum: I would say that Wednesday against Pittsburgh is a “must-win” if only because SU doesn’t want to be sweating too much on Selection Sunday. But in reality, a loss to the Panthers might not end the Orange’s NCAA Tournament hopes. It could. Or it might put Syracuse in Dayton’s First Four game. Or SU might be a 10 seed. It’s impossible to tell. If Syracuse can beat Pittsburgh on Wednesday, it’s NCAA Tournament prospects rise significantly.Jesse Dougherty: Simply beat Pittsburgh. I can’t imagine the selection committee is going to hold SU accountable if it loses to North Carolina in the second round, but if the Orange loses to the Panthers that could be all she wrote. With that said, there is prevailing logic that the committee wants teams they think can compete in the tournament, so I think a secondary part of this is that Syracuse needs to play the Tar Heels close if they do beat Pittsburgh. A narrow win over Pitt and then a blowout loss to UNC could be almost as bad as losing a tight one to the Panthers.Matt Schneidman: Syracuse has to beat Pittsburgh to avoid Jim Boeheim sweating through five shirts before Selection Sunday. I don’t think a loss completely eliminates the Orange from Tournament contention, but it would certainly put SU in murky waters with a fifth loss in its last six games. In a “what have you done for me lately” kind of world, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Panthers would do wonders and, in my opinion lock up a bid in the 68-team field even if Syracuse does get blown out by North Carolina in the next round.Who is the player that needs to step up for Syracuse to beat Pittsburgh in the first round of the ACC tournament?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textS.B.: SU’s struggles of late have coincided with Trevor Cooney’s inability to be a consistent scorer. He needs to find some way to fend off his always-present late-season struggles and make some big shots. He’s too much of a liability if he’s going to be missing the vast majority of the shots he’s taking. He really struggles to take the ball to the rim and his best strength is making catch-and-shoot 3s with a quick release. It’s a useful skill, and one the Orange needs to have at full strength against the Panthers.J.D.: It has to be Trevor Cooney. The fifth-year senior has made just five of his last 30 attempts from beyond the arc, and the Orange offense needs someone to inject some life into it after a handful of listless performances at the end of the season. It’s no secret how much better the Syracuse offense is when Cooney is at least making some of his shots, and it also opens up a lot of opportunities for his teammates to work inside and create off the dribble.M.S.: Tyler Roberson. Plain and simple. He needs to have an inhuman rebounding effort since the last two games against Pitt have resulted in Syracuse being outrebounded by a total of 38. Sure, seven or eight boards from Tyler Lydon wouldn’t hurt, but the Orange can ill afford to get bullied on the glass again. Michael Young and Jamel Artis can easily blow this game open with second- and third-chance opportunities, but Roberson could stifle those if he plugs that outlet all the way in and doesn’t let it loosen.Can Syracuse beat Pittsburgh while being dominated on the glass?S.B.: Yes, but there’s contingencies. Syracuse will need to shoot pretty well and play otherwise good defense, especially on the Panthers’ second-chance opportunities. The Orange has showed that rebounding isn’t the most important part of its blueprint to victory. But when SU rebounded well, it’s played well too. So while it’s not the most important thing, it shows a correlation to success.J.D.: When you play a team that rebounds as well as Pitt does, the margin for error really shrinks on the court. It means you have to defend the perimeter better, shoot better and, particularly in the Orange’s case, push the pace. If Syracuse can get out on the break and pick up some easy buckets that way, the Panthers won’t be able to have as many players crash the offensive glass. It’s one thing to have centers and power forwards for the SU frontcourt to box out, but it’s unreasonable for this year’s zone to have to also account for athletic players from the wing. Playing in transition will alleviate the rebounding pressure from those forwards and bigger guards, and that will be key for the Orange.M.S.: I really don’t see Syracuse beating Pittsburgh if the Orange gets dominated on the glass. Cooney and Richardson haven’t been consistent enough to shoot SU ahead in a game where it’s dominated inside the arc, and Pittsburgh’s mid-range game and prowess on the glass does just that. If Roberson and Lydon can’t neutralize a frontcourt they’ve been ravaged by, Syracuse could be looking at a trip to the NIT. Comments Published on March 7, 2016 at 12:38 am Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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