Syracuse basketball roundtable: How to handle Gonzaga’s threats and how SU can improve

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ 2. How can Syracuse handle Wiltjer and Sabonis?S.B.: Well you really can’t handle those two players. They’re going to get their rebounds and their points. Syracuse just has to be better in other areas and hope Tyler Roberson and Dajuan Coleman play as well as they can on the glass. It means the Orange needs to shoot the ball well and keep the ball out of the high post so those two guys won’t get as many touches. It’s the same formula that SU always needs to follow when it plays teams with good bigs. Thankfully for Syracuse, this isn’t the hardest matchup its had this season.J.D.: Syracuse can handle Wiltjer and Sabonis by doing its best to not solely focus on handling Wiltjer and Sabonis. If you sift through these guys’ games this year, it’s clear that they are going to get theirs because the Gonzaga offense repeatedly puts them in scoring situations. There are specific ways I think Syracuse could try to slow these two down — doubling down on Sabonis and making him attempt cross-court passes from the block, extending the zone early to Witljer to not let him catch and shoot, among others. But if this pair scores it’s near 40 combined points and the Orange wins because the rest of the team fumbles, I’d say SU contained Witljer and Sabonis just fine.M.S.: Syracuse can only handle Wiltjer and Sabonis to an extent. They’re two of the best shooting big men in the country and will hit shots from the perimeter against the zone. The question is how many. The Orange was able to close out on Middle Tennessee State’s most effective shooter in Giddy Potts, but SU’s next opponent has much more depth with McClellan, Dranginis and Perkins closely as capable to Wiltjer and Sabonis as knocking down from anywhere. The former Kentucky national champion, Wiltjer, shoots 53 percent from 2-point range and 43.2 percent from deep. Sabonis shoots over 62 percent from inside the arc, which should scare the life out of Jim Boeheim especially since the big man could hurt SU on the low block just as much.3. From the first weekend, what was one thing Syracuse did exceptionally well and one thing it needs to improve?S.B.: Syracuse allowed an average of 50.5 points per game in its first two NCAA Tournament contests, so the zone is clearly clicking. Every single MTSU player said it was nearly impossible to handle. In terms of improvement, there’s not really a lot to say when you win two games by a combined 44 points. The Orange did struggle at the line on Sunday, though, going 13-of-22, and that can’t happen again.J.D.: Syracuse’s 2-3 zone was excellent in its first two games of the Tournament, and trying to pick out an area for improvement after two lopsided wins would probably be nitpicking. So if I had to pick out something the Orange could improve on moving forward, I’d say it could draw some more fouls. Starting Friday, every team SU faces from here on out will be extremely talented and it couldn’t hurt to get some of these talented big men — the two mentioned above, Virginia’s Anthony Gill or Iowa State’s Georges Niang if you’re interested in looking ahead — in early foul trouble to shake things up. SU drew 16 fouls against Dayton and 15 against Middle Tennessee State, and it would help if that number got over 20 with the talent level rising.M.S.: As simple as it may sound, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone helped it run away with two games this past weekend. It let up a combined 101 points to Dayton and the Blue Raiders and stifled any comeback attempts by the two when the Orange pulled away in the second half of both games. As for what it needs to improve on, Syracuse closed out on shooters too quickly and in too many numbers. On one end, that’s crucial to limiting a team’s best shooter, like Potts for MTSU. But if SU does that with Wiltjer and Sabonis when they extend to the perimeter, both have the ability to drive and expose a Syracuse frontcourt with now only one player to man the paint if two close out. Finding the balance between closing out quickly and defending the paint will be crucial on Friday, especially against the best versatile big men its seen all season. Comments Published on March 22, 2016 at 6:11 pm After defeating seventh-seeded Dayton and No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State by a combined 44 points, Syracuse will face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Friday. The two double-digit seeds are the only ones seeded that low still left in the NCAA Tournament and will tip off around 9:40 p.m. EST at the United Center in Chicago.Our beat writers address three topics surrounding the matchup between SU and the Bulldogs.1. What is the biggest threat Gonzaga poses to Syracuse?Sam Blum: Gonzaga is probably the biggest team left in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s going to pose a serious threat to Syracuse’s hopes of survival on Friday night. Domantas Sabonis is one of the best, if not the best, rebounder in college basketball. He’s 6-foot-11. Then there’s 6-foot-10 forward Kyle Wiltjer, who is also a presence inside. Part of the reason why Gonzaga is only a No. 11 seed is because they had to play most of the season without arguably their best big man in Przemek Karnowski. So needless to say, this is a big team and Syracuse is vulnerable to big men. It’s not a great matchup for the Orange, but SU has shown a good ability to adjust in this Tournament.Jesse Dougherty: Balance on offense. Sabonis and Wiltjer, Gonzaga’s frontcourt pairing, are on their own a diverse two-man scoring machine. Sabonis is an NBA-bound post scorer averaging 17.5 points per game while Wiltjer is a 6-foot-10 sniper who averages 20.4 points per game and shoots 43.2 percent from 3. But the Bulldogs offensive versatility doesn’t end there. Eric McClellan and Josh Perkins can find the gaps off the dribble and even guard Kyle Dranginis, a “glue guy” who doesn’t score too often, can penetrate and score at a high percentage around the paint. If it were just Sabonis and Wiltjer, Syracuse would have its hands full. But Gonzaga’s arsenal of scoring options really complicates any game plan to defend the Bulldogs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMatt Schneidman: Every team can shoot, but most can’t shoot like Gonzaga. The Bulldogs’ effective field-goal percentage, according to, ranks 12th in the country. The scariest thing about Gonzaga’s arsenal of efficient shooters is that two of them are 6-foot-10 or taller, but we’ll get into those guys in the next question. The Zags have shown the ability to get into the cracks of a defense, whether it be in its 16-point dismantling of sixth-seeded Seton Hall or 23-point romping of third-seeded Utah. That’s even more lethal against a zone, which last time I checked, is Syracuse’s defense. So watch out for the Zags to slip to the foul line, high post or short corner for attempts they don’t miss on a consistent basis.MORE COVERAGE:NCAA Tournament: 10 fun facts about GonzagaDougherty: The Syracuse zone is keeping the madness at baySchneidman: 4 days in St. Louis define the madness of MarchSyracuse-Gonzaga game time set for 9:40 p.m. on FridaySyracuse basketball keeps dancing to Sweet 16 with 75-50 win over Middle Tennessee State Related Stories NCAA Tournament: 10 fun facts about GonzagaDougherty: The Syracuse zone is keeping the madness at baySchneidman: 4 days in St. Louis define the madness of MarchSyracuse-Gonzaga game time set for 9:40 p.m. on FridaySyracuse basketball keeps dancing to Sweet 16 with 75-50 win over Middle Tennessee Statelast_img