Some thoughts on '23-'24 | Syracusefan.com

Some thoughts on '23-'24

billsin01

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So I don't know that any of us know enough about this team to do some sort of meaningful preview, but consider this more a collection of thoughts and questions that we may see answered or playing out over the next few months.

High ceiling, low floor for this group
Bunch of new faces, new coach, new systems on both sides of the ball, tough preconference schedule ... oh, and the coach is a first-time head coach replacing a legend. I feel like there's a scenario where this team is back in the tournament in March ... but also a scenario where things really go south and we're well under .500 and struggling to find wins. I mean, I don't think the latter will happen but I also haven't seen anything so far that makes me think this is a team that is back in the top 25 this season. Just feels like a lot of work to do.

It was time for JB to retire, but let's give the man his due
JB is gone and, it appears, so is the zone for the most part. That's a good thing for all parties and there's no need to look backwards. That said, as much as it annoyed people here sometimes, JB's goal was to win college basketball games. He was happy when kids developed into pros and expanded their games, but he wasn't doing that at the expense of winning. The zone, sitting on the ball with lead and 4 mins left, short rotations, telling certain kids they can't shoot, etc. Those annoyed fans through the years but they also won a bunch of games. I love the idea of playing a deeper rotation, pushing for more athleticism, and playing aggressive man-2-man ... but none of those things guarantee any success. Will be interesting to watch.

Defense will be the key
I think we've seen enough to know that shooting at least won't be the strength of this team. However, we've also seen enough to know that we should be capable of putting the ball in the basket at an OK clip. We also know we are deeper and more athletic than the past few years (not sure how people are saying this is the most athletic team we've had ... that's nuts). BUT, what we need to know is how tough will this defense be? It has to be our identity. We're not going to consistently outscore and outrun teams. We're not that good. We have to be able to defend and what we've seen so far looks to be a pretty pedestrian, straight-up man-2-man defense. We'll need to see something more sophisticated, particularly as the competition gets tougher (which it will very quickly).

Rotation thoughts
  • I think there's a chance this is a much smaller rotation than people think. I like the potential of Carey and Patterson, but I don't think we'll see much of either. I guess Hima has a chance but not sure he fits what we're doing. I could see one of Bell/Taylor getting squeezed. I don't know what to think about Benny. I don't know how healthy Chance will be. All that together means this could be a much shorter rotation than people think. 7/7.5 might be where we ultimately land. If it's 8+ great, but i could see it being pretty short when games really matter

  • Two years in and my question on Benny is the same: What is he? I mean, the theory of Benny is great -- he uses his athleticism and shooting to be a factor on offense (maybe some decent passing as well) and flies around using his length and athleticism on defense and on the glass. The reality of Benny is, will he do any of these things? My guess is this: The days of thinking Benny will create his own offense and be a big factor with his athleticism feel like they are gone. But can he be a guy who hustles, battles, is intense and runs the floor? That's my hope. I'm less concerned with his numbers specifically and more concerned with hustle and aggressiveness. Thought he had really tough time defensively in the one scrimmage (he's late off the floor defensively all the time). Offense was interesting -- he looks real comfortable with that fade-away mid-range, but that's ultimately a low-percentage shot and his threes looked flat. He's largely a non-factor off the ball. He's nowhere near physical enough on a consistent basis. He's a key for us but I'm not feeling real optimistic.

  • Cuffe and Quadir may be a bigger part of what we're doing than many people think. The best compliment I can give Cuffe is he was 1 of 6 in our second exhibition game and I still thought he contributed in a positive way. He has no doubt -- in his own mind -- that he belongs and he's intent on being a factor in all facets of the game. I love those two things even if it can lead to some bad decisions or lack of control (couple ugly turnovers in the first exhibition). Quadir has a ton of energy and length and good athleticism. Again, there are some holes here and he will be frustrating at times ... but he makes things happen on the floor. If you're ranking our guys, Judah is a clear 1, Brown is a clear 2 and then some combination of JJ, Copeland, Cuffe and maybe McLeod (maybe?) probably round out the top 6. And yes, I do think this means we may see a decent dose of effectively 4-guard lineups, maybe even with Brown at the 5.

  • Taylor/Bell. These two are inextricably linked at this point and they both have the same question, so far as I'm concerned. Each has some ability and some skills that could help this team (shooting not the least among them). Taylor has the more well-rounded game -- has some strength that allows him to play a little bigger but can move his feet to allow him to hang as a guard. Can put the ball on the deck a little to create offense and can shoot coming off screens. Bell is mostly a spot-up shooter (though that hasn't translated consistently enough to be as big a weapon as we'd like) but with athleticism that could allow him to be a factor in open floor and on the defensive end. BUT, neither guy brings enough consistently for me to consider them givens as huge pieces in our rotation. They will get their opportunities but Taylor needs to be able to assert himself on the game a bit more and Bell has to continue to work hard to be something more than just a shooter (thought he worked hard on defense vs. St. Rose). My prediction is that one emerges as a key rotation piece but not both. Would love to be wrong.

  • Is McLeod in M2M really going to happen? There's something here but McLeod is not a guy who can even pretend to stay in front of anyone on the perimeter. We can try to hedge and play some drop coverage in m2m with him, but I worry he'll be almost unplayable with how well most teams shoot. I'm thinking he plays a bunch but I wonder if it will mean, long-term, that we see a bit more zone (maybe not a traditional 2-3, but a zone of some sort) than people think in order to get him on the floor to take advantage of his rim protection and ability to dive to the rim.

  • Brown and Judah are excellent. JJ will be a factor. Hope Brown is healthy but he and Judah are studs. JJ is weird and seems like shooting will be a struggle. That said, he's an excellent athlete who has found a way to score and be a factor thus far. I expect he'll continue to get a bunch of minutes going forward.
Summary: My guess is this team is bubble-ish given the difficulty of the schedule. Don't really see a top 6 ACC finish. What could change that opinion? Is our defense more sophisticated than we've seen in the scrimmages? Maybe. Does one of the Bell/Taylor/Benny group take a genuine step forward? That would help. Is Chance actually healthy and can he be a meaningful factor in the second half of the season? Maybe.

Like I said, hard to really make a prediction based on all the unknowns, but this should be an entertaining group. They should get better instead of plateau or get worse as the season moves along. I actually think all the guys I have not playing huge roles -- Carey, one of Bell/Taylor, maybe even Benny if he's struggling, Hima, etc. -- are potentially capable of contributing. So we'll have to wait and see. But, either way, fun to see a different product on the floor and here's hoping I'm pleasantly surprised come March!
 
Pretty much anything goes. In EX2 we saw Taylor and Bell play considerable time together in the lineup, so it's possible they could co-exist. I also believe Cuffe and Quaddy find important minutes this season. Both seem to have a knack of being in the middle of the action and i've gone on recordof being bullish on both. And I wouldnt rule McLeod out yet as a MTM defender. He can cover a lot of ground and with his wingspan, he doesn't need to be in someone's face. His size alone will cause shooters to alter their shots.
 
So I don't know that any of us know enough about this team to do some sort of meaningful preview, but consider this more a collection of thoughts and questions that we may see answered or playing out over the next few months.

High ceiling, low floor for this group
Bunch of new faces, new coach, new systems on both sides of the ball, tough preconference schedule ... oh, and the coach is a first-time head coach replacing a legend. I feel like there's a scenario where this team is back in the tournament in March ... but also a scenario where things really go south and we're well under .500 and struggling to find wins. I mean, I don't think the latter will happen but I also haven't seen anything so far that makes me think this is a team that is back in the top 25 this season. Just feels like a lot of work to do.

It was time for JB to retire, but let's give the man his due
JB is gone and, it appears, so is the zone for the most part. That's a good thing for all parties and there's no need to look backwards. That said, as much as it annoyed people here sometimes, JB's goal was to win college basketball games. He was happy when kids developed into pros and expanded their games, but he wasn't doing that at the expense of winning. The zone, sitting on the ball with lead and 4 mins left, short rotations, telling certain kids they can't shoot, etc. Those annoyed fans through the years but they also won a bunch of games. I love the idea of playing a deeper rotation, pushing for more athleticism, and playing aggressive man-2-man ... but none of those things guarantee any success. Will be interesting to watch.

Defense will be the key
I think we've seen enough to know that shooting at least won't be the strength of this team. However, we've also seen enough to know that we should be capable of putting the ball in the basket at an OK clip. We also know we are deeper and more athletic than the past few years (not sure how people are saying this is the most athletic team we've had ... that's nuts). BUT, what we need to know is how tough will this defense be? It has to be our identity. We're not going to consistently outscore and outrun teams. We're not that good. We have to be able to defend and what we've seen so far looks to be a pretty pedestrian, straight-up man-2-man defense. We'll need to see something more sophisticated, particularly as the competition gets tougher (which it will very quickly).

Rotation thoughts
  • I think there's a chance this is a much smaller rotation than people think. I like the potential of Carey and Patterson, but I don't think we'll see much of either. I guess Hima has a chance but not sure he fits what we're doing. I could see one of Bell/Taylor getting squeezed. I don't know what to think about Benny. I don't know how healthy Chance will be. All that together means this could be a much shorter rotation than people think. 7/7.5 might be where we ultimately land. If it's 8+ great, but i could see it being pretty short when games really matter

  • Two years in and my question on Benny is the same: What is he? I mean, the theory of Benny is great -- he uses his athleticism and shooting to be a factor on offense (maybe some decent passing as well) and flies around using his length and athleticism on defense and on the glass. The reality of Benny is, will he do any of these things? My guess is this: The days of thinking Benny will create his own offense and be a big factor with his athleticism feel like they are gone. But can he be a guy who hustles, battles, is intense and runs the floor? That's my hope. I'm less concerned with his numbers specifically and more concerned with hustle and aggressiveness. Thought he had really tough time defensively in the one scrimmage (he's late off the floor defensively all the time). Offense was interesting -- he looks real comfortable with that fade-away mid-range, but that's ultimately a low-percentage shot and his threes looked flat. He's largely a non-factor off the ball. He's nowhere near physical enough on a consistent basis. He's a key for us but I'm not feeling real optimistic.

  • Cuffe and Quadir may be a bigger part of what we're doing than many people think. The best compliment I can give Cuffe is he was 1 of 6 in our second exhibition game and I still thought he contributed in a positive way. He has no doubt -- in his own mind -- that he belongs and he's intent on being a factor in all facets of the game. I love those two things even if it can lead to some bad decisions or lack of control (couple ugly turnovers in the first exhibition). Quadir has a ton of energy and length and good athleticism. Again, there are some holes here and he will be frustrating at times ... but he makes things happen on the floor. If you're ranking our guys, Judah is a clear 1, Brown is a clear 2 and then some combination of JJ, Copeland, Cuffe and maybe McLeod (maybe?) probably round out the top 6. And yes, I do think this means we may see a decent dose of effectively 4-guard lineups, maybe even with Brown at the 5.

  • Taylor/Bell. These two are inextricably linked at this point and they both have the same question, so far as I'm concerned. Each has some ability and some skills that could help this team (shooting not the least among them). Taylor has the more well-rounded game -- has some strength that allows him to play a little bigger but can move his feet to allow him to hang as a guard. Can put the ball on the deck a little to create offense and can shoot coming off screens. Bell is mostly a spot-up shooter (though that hasn't translated consistently enough to be as big a weapon as we'd like) but with athleticism that could allow him to be a factor in open floor and on the defensive end. BUT, neither guy brings enough consistently for me to consider them givens as huge pieces in our rotation. They will get their opportunities but Taylor needs to be able to assert himself on the game a bit more and Bell has to continue to work hard to be something more than just a shooter (thought he worked hard on defense vs. St. Rose). My prediction is that one emerges as a key rotation piece but not both. Would love to be wrong.

  • Is McLeod in M2M really going to happen? There's something here but McLeod is not a guy who can even pretend to stay in front of anyone on the perimeter. We can try to hedge and play some drop coverage in m2m with him, but I worry he'll be almost unplayable with how well most teams shoot. I'm thinking he plays a bunch but I wonder if it will mean, long-term, that we see a bit more zone (maybe not a traditional 2-3, but a zone of some sort) than people think in order to get him on the floor to take advantage of his rim protection and ability to dive to the rim.

  • Brown and Judah are excellent. JJ will be a factor. Hope Brown is healthy but he and Judah are studs. JJ is weird and seems like shooting will be a struggle. That said, he's an excellent athlete who has found a way to score and be a factor thus far. I expect he'll continue to get a bunch of minutes going forward.
Summary: My guess is this team is bubble-ish given the difficulty of the schedule. Don't really see a top 6 ACC finish. What could change that opinion? Is our defense more sophisticated than we've seen in the scrimmages? Maybe. Does one of the Bell/Taylor/Benny group take a genuine step forward? That would help. Is Chance actually healthy and can he be a meaningful factor in the second half of the season? Maybe.

Like I said, hard to really make a prediction based on all the unknowns, but this should be an entertaining group. They should get better instead of plateau or get worse as the season moves along. I actually think all the guys I have not playing huge roles -- Carey, one of Bell/Taylor, maybe even Benny if he's struggling, Hima, etc. -- are potentially capable of contributing. So we'll have to wait and see. But, either way, fun to see a different product on the floor and here's hoping I'm pleasantly surprised come March!

I agree with much of this, except for the smaller rotation part.

I can't see how Red doesn't play 8-9+ guys pretty regularly.
(assumes Benny remains on the team)

Guys who are mortal locks for double-digit minutes (assuming no injuries)
Judah
JJ
Maliq
McLeod

Guys who are incredibly likely to average double-digit minutes:
Bell
Taylor Swish
Q
Benny

Guys who are wildcards, and could possibly average double-digit minutes:
Cuffe
.
.
.
Carey
.
.
.
Westry (if/when he comes back from injury, and is able to be full-go)

So - I'm thinking those first 8-9 guys all end up averaging double-digit minutes, even if somebody like Cuffe ends up "just" being like 10-12 on average.

Carey and Westry likely won't get enough run to crack that barrier.

Hima & Patterson = break glass in case of emergency.
(hopefully the latter takes a RS year, and if the former can't contribute, hits the portal after the season)
 
Pretty much anything goes. In EX2 we saw Taylor and Bell play considerable time together in the lineup, so it's possible they could co-exist. I also believe Cuffe and Quaddy find important minutes this season. Both seem to have a knack of being in the middle of the action and i've gone on recordof being bullish on both. And I wouldnt rule McLeod out yet as a MTM defender. He can cover a lot of ground and with his wingspan, he doesn't need to be in someone's face. His size alone will cause shooters to alter their shots.
Agreed on all, though I think they may have to get creative to have McLeod on the floor in m2m. I think at least. We'll see.

Your point on Cuffe and Quadir is where I am -- they are in the middle of the action. I would further it by saying somehow Benny/Bell/Taylor sometimes struggle to be in the middle of the action. Any or all of those three could have really nice years and play big roles for us, but personally i love kids who are confident, active and mixing things up. It can go wrong, for sure, but I feel like Copeland/Cuffe have a confidence and knack for mixing things up that the other three need to sort of manufacture. That's easier said than done.
 
I agree with much of this, except for the smaller rotation part.

I can't see how Red doesn't play 8-9+ guys pretty regularly.
(assumes Benny remains on the team)

Guys who are mortal locks for double-digit minutes (assuming no injuries)
Judah
JJ
Maliq
McLeod

Guys who are incredibly likely to average double-digit minutes:
Bell
Taylor Swish
Q
Benny

Guys who are wildcards, and could possibly average double-digit minutes:
Cuffe
.
.
.
Carey
.
.
.
Westry (if/when he comes back from injury, and is able to be full-go)

So - I'm thinking those first 8-9 guys all end up averaging double-digit minutes, even if somebody like Cuffe ends up "just" being like 10-12 on average.

Carey and Westry likely won't get enough run to crack that barrier.

Hima & Patterson = break glass in case of emergency.
(hopefully the latter takes a RS year, and if the former can't contribute, hits the portal after the season)
Yeah, you could be right. I'm not pretending to know anything and it's probably early for anyone to draw a whole lot of hard and fast conclusions. My only difference is that Cuffe (Westry it's hard to say b/c i just haven't seen him play) would be in the incredibly likely category now. Could be wrong, but my guess is he is and that we could see one of Bell/Taylor squeezed. But we'll have to see.
 
Agreed on all, though I think they may have to get creative to have McLeod on the floor in m2m. I think at least. We'll see.

Your point on Cuffe and Quadir is where I am -- they are in the middle of the action. I would further it by saying somehow Benny/Bell/Taylor sometimes struggle to be in the middle of the action. Any or all of those three could have really nice years and play big roles for us, but personally i love kids who are confident, active and mixing things up. It can go wrong, for sure, but I feel like Copeland/Cuffe have a confidence and knack for mixing things up that the other three need to sort of manufacture. That's easier said than done.

McLeod managed fine in mtm vs two very small albeit inferior exhibition opponents. He won't confuse anyone for being Maliq on D or Jesse on O but did ok.

The guy who could put himself at major risk as things have been unfolding is Benny once he returns. Taylor had a nice hame after a rough early start vs St Rose on D. I'm looking forward to seeing how Taylor and Bell look with getting a second game starting together. Both seemed to be getting what Red and staff were trying to push on them in Game 2
 
I agree with much of this, except for the smaller rotation part.

I can't see how Red doesn't play 8-9+ guys pretty regularly.
(assumes Benny remains on the team)

Guys who are mortal locks for double-digit minutes (assuming no injuries)
Judah
JJ
Maliq
McLeod

Guys who are incredibly likely to average double-digit minutes:
Bell
Taylor Swish
Q
Benny

Guys who are wildcards, and could possibly average double-digit minutes:
Cuffe
.
.
.
Carey
.
.
.
Westry (if/when he comes back from injury, and is able to be full-go)

So - I'm thinking those first 8-9 guys all end up averaging double-digit minutes, even if somebody like Cuffe ends up "just" being like 10-12 on average.

Carey and Westry likely won't get enough run to crack that barrier.

Hima & Patterson = break glass in case of emergency.
(hopefully the latter takes a RS year, and if the former can't contribute, hits the portal after the season)
Good post. I’m a little higher on Cuffe. He plays excellent defense and may get some good run in certain games because of matchups and when another guard is struggling. And I just like how he complements Judah.
 
Very interesting and good post in many respects, but in my opinion the elephant in the room was missed. There is no doubt we play hard, but in the modern college game we need to take and make a reasonable number of treys.

the problem is arguably our five best players are Judah, JJ, cope, Malik, and Benny. judah showed flashes of being a solid three point shooter. Benny shot ok last season, but I predict he will regress because of funky long distance shooting form.

off the bench we have bell and Taylor who can shoot. Both have good form, but erratic results.

so, my bottom line for this group, is that we somehow need at least three reasonably consistent trey shooters to emerge.
 
Very interesting and good post in many respects, but in my opinion the elephant in the room was missed. There is no doubt we play hard, but in the modern college game we need to take and make a reasonable number of treys.

the problem is arguably our five best players are Judah, JJ, cope, Malik, and Benny. judah showed flashes of being a solid three point shooter. Benny shot ok last season, but I predict he will regress because of funky long distance shooting form.

off the bench we have bell and Taylor who can shoot. Both have good form, but erratic results.

so, my bottom line for this group, is that we somehow need at least three reasonably consistent trey shooters to emerge.
Yeah, Taylor and Bell aren't coming off the bench at least for tonight and one will likely start all year.

Benny...smh. He's done nothing here.
 

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