Syracuse basketball roundtable: Syracuse’s ‘small’ lineup, Malachi Richardson and what Syracuse must prove

first_imgSyracuse (15-8, 5-5 Atlantic Coast) is coming off a three-point win against Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Orange next faces Virginia Tech on Tuesday. With just eight regular-season games remaining, beat writers Sam Blum, Jesse Dougherty and Matt Schneidman discuss three questions surrounding Syracuse basketball.1. For a portion of the Georgia Tech game, Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson, Frank Howard and Tyler Lydon were all on the court at the same time. How effective can that lineup be if Syracuse continues to use it in the future?Sam Blum: I don’t think that lineup gives Syracuse the best possible lineup. It gets Gbinije out of the point guard role, but it’s still a somewhat undersized lineup. Howard provides a nice spark off the bench, but I can’t envision him getting more than 10-15 minutes per game. Having Dajuan Coleman or Tyler Roberson in the game gives the Orange a better defensive, rebounding and inside scoring team. That doesn’t mean it won’t be employed when it’s the best option, but it won’t typically be the best option.Jesse Dougherty: It seems that this “small lineup” will be used more as a Band-Aid than to change the pace of games. Syracuse went to it on Saturday after starting center Coleman fouled out, and it was a good counter to Georgia Tech’s commitment to using its strong frontcourt to pound the Orange inside. The lineup pressured the Yellow Jackets’ guards beyond the 3-point line and made it hard for them to enter the ball into the post. That is one way for it be effective defensively, and there really is no question as to whether it can thrive on the offensive end. But its effect on the game can be duplicated by other SU lineups, so I wouldn’t expect it to be a regular look unless Coleman or another big fouls out and Jim Boeheim sees the need to speed up the game.Matt Schneidman: After the game on Saturday, Boeheim acknowledged that the “small” lineup wasn’t bad. He wanted to get a big, Roberson, back in the game for the final stretch, but that lineup held Georgia Tech scoreless as Syracuse erased a four-point deficit in the final stage of the game. If Boeheim uses it in the future it can certainly be effective, especially if Howard continues to be the heady passing-savvy guard that we’ve seen of late. I don’t think the lineup is one we’ll see any more than we did on Saturday, though, because Howard’s ceiling is only about 15 minutes per game and Coleman can only foul out of games with six minutes remaining so many times. If Coleman can avoid fouling out with a significant portion of the game left, there’s no reason at least one of him or Roberson wouldn’t be in against an ACC team. Still, the lineup showed it can be effective against a physically superior team, so there’s no reason it can do the same against a team weaker in the lane if Howard continues to penetrate the paint.2. Has Malachi Richardson truly proven that he is the player Syracuse needs him to be down the stretch?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLogan Reidsma | Senior Staff Photographer S.B.: Yes. He’s been Syracuse’s best player. He scores in bunches and is impossible to limit for 40 minutes, even if he struggles for stretches of games. He’s made a slew of big shots down the stretch of games — if it weren’t for him, the Clemson and Virginia losses would have looked a lot worse. He gets to the line, hits 3s and creates his own shots better than anyone else. I would say he’s grown up a lot from the player that couldn’t make shots early in the season, but he’s still the same player. I think that’s a testament to the consistent maturity he’s had since the season started.J.D.: Richardson’s ability to get the rim has made him a consistent scoring threat, and that also makes him a reliable, down-the-stretch option for Syracuse. There will still be growing pains as his freshman season wore on, but the natural inclination for defenders to fly at the 3-point line late in games lends itself well to Richardson’s ability to go off the dribble and draw fouls in the paint. Then factor in his established shooting stroke and you have a player who, however young, can shoulder a scoring load in crunch time if teams choose to drape defenders on Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.M.S.: Richardson has played games where he’s been nonexistent one half and a standout the next. On Saturday, he just happened to come alive when Syracuse needed it most and he did it in three different ways. He hit the 3 that brought Syracuse within one, converted an and-one that Boeheim highlighted after the game and knocked down free throws with seconds remaining in a situation he’d faltered in before. Syracuse doesn’t need him to do that, per se, because Gbinije and Cooney are capable of scoring in spurts to carry the Orange down the stretch. But Saturday, if anything, showed what the freshman can do in terms of carrying the team if he needs to.3. What questions must Syracuse answer with eight regular-season games left?S.B.: Right now pretty much all of the rotation players are playing their best at the right time. Cooney is having the best in-conference stretch of his career. Richardson hasn’t been a cold streak since before the new year. Roberson has been “plugged-in.” Coleman has shown steady improvement, which is all you could hope for. Howard is coming off a career game. And Lydon is showing how good of a shooter he can be. The biggest question is how sustainable it is. The Orange is still a seven-man team, and that’s always going to be tenuous. Things are going great right now, but my biggest question is if the Orange are designed to make that last.J.D.: I don’t think there’s any question the Orange “must” address with 23 games in the books, but there are small kinks in the offense that could get smoothed out in the coming weeks. Gbinije is the team’s best player, and SU is at its best when the ball is in his hands, but do lineups with Howard or Cooney handling the ball give Gbinije a better chance at scoring? That’s something that will materialize as competition stiffens and teams start to see SU almost solely relying on the high ball screen when Gbinije is at the helm of the offense. If teams cue on that and sell out to stop Gbinije from being effective, how will Syracuse adjust to put its best player in scoring situations without comprising the flow of the offense? Gbinije’s talent and value to this Orange team is no secret, and this could become a hot-button topic as SU makes its tournament push.M.S.: Syracuse’s biggest question with eight games remaining that has seemingly gone unanswered is how will Coleman stay out of foul trouble. We saw what he’s capable of even when he is bogged down by foul trouble. Imagine if that left-handed hook gains traction when he doesn’t have to go to the bench every five minutes. If Boeheim calls someone “tremendous” and they still pick up five fouls, then something is definitely going well. Now it’s up to Coleman to stop putting his hands on people in the post so he can inch back to a reliable center who’s not attached to a short leash. Comments Published on January 31, 2016 at 10:48 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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