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Two days after Syracuse’s loss to Virginia, sitting at his desk on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s weekly coaches Zoom call, Jim Boeheim used the words “horrible,” “horrendous” and “disgrace” to describe his defense in its 74-69 loss to the Cavaliers. The Orange allowed UVA’s shaky offense to convert 52% of its shots throughout the game, and 63% of its attempts in the second half. For an SU defensive unit that’s struggled all season — ranking 194th defending the 3 and 238th defending the 2, per KenPom — Virginia was the latest team in a growing sample size to capitalize on the Orange’s glaring weakness.
Boeheim said postgame Saturday that SU missed defensive rotations and UVA “got easy layups in the first half that should never happen.” When asked to elaborate on what will help solve the defensive woes beyond just fixing rotations, he said the missed rotations are the “biggest problem” and specifically called out five possessions: UVA’s first two 3-pointers in the game and a trio of dunks for its final three baskets before halftime.
“It’s five possessions, five rotations,” Boeheim said. “So it doesn’t take many more than that.”
Buddy Boeheim said Saturday’s attack was the fourth offensive approach he’s seen from Virginia in his four years at Syracuse, as the Cavaliers “overloaded the bottom” and put one player on the block and one in the high-post area.
Ahead of SU’s game against Miami on Wednesday, here are the issues within those five possessions that led to the Orange suffering their first ACC loss of the season:
On this sequence early in the first half, Syracuse almost notched a steal after Cole Swider deflected a pass in between the left side of the paint and the 3-point arc. But notice, in this clip, how much space Virginia’s Armaan Franklin (No. 4) already has on the right wing. Jimmy Boeheim and Jesse Edwards are clustered together down near the right block, with Swider stuck in between two UVA players on the other side of the zone.
Here’s the consequence of that cluster. Kadin Shedrick (No. 21) now has the ball near the left block with his face turned toward the top of the key — where Kihei Clark (No. 0) resides off-screen — and Franklin still sits wide-open on the right wing, now with his arm raised calling for the ball.
The ball makes one more stop before it reaches Franklin, and in that clip above, Jimmy notices the open space and starts to adjust. But, as demonstrated by what unfolded below, a simple pump-fake by Franklin forced Jimmy to fly by and become unable to contest the shot. Franklin calmly steps into his shooting motion and hits the 3, one that Boeheim attributed to a lack of rotation toward the corner-area.
Here, Franklin has parked himself deeper in the corner behind Jimmy. As Buddy said postgame, this year, the Cavaliers have typically stationed someone on the block and another player in the high-post area — opening up lanes for the high-low set that SU needed to be aware of. With the ball on Jimmy’s side, he’s already faded up toward Clark — the man with the ball — but Edwards still stood in the middle of the paint without leaking out toward the open corner.
This clip captures the pass from Clark, past Jimmy with his outstretched arm, and into the corner, where Edwards is now forced to react with less time than if he’d moved earlier. But because of the late recovery, or lack of movement on the bottom of the zone in general, the high-low option Virginia had set up could’ve become a quick one-two pass to Shedrick on the left block.
All it would take is a pass to Jayden Gardner (No. 1), allowing Shedrick to be wide-open depending on where Swider was pulled to. Instead, all UVA has to do is move the ball to the corner, where Franklin has enough space for an open 3.
Now to the three layups. On this first one, Clark cycles the ball to Franklin on the left wing and then cuts through the center of the paint, essentially curling around Reece Beekman (No. 2) on the right block as he screens Edwards. But because the ball rests high on the left wing, that brings Benny Williams up higher.
This clip captures the end of the screen that freed up Clark. Swider’s presence high up on the left wing leaves Edwards with three UVA players in the general vicinity of his location on the left block. Buddy’s guarding the high-post entrance pass, which could be open depending on how Beekman rolled.
At this point, Swider’s attempting to recover on the backside as Edwards has to go way out into the corner to defend Clark, who’ll dish the ball to Beekman off the roll, into the high-post area, but beneath where Buddy had guarded as the initial set began above when the ball was on the wing. Once Beekman has the ball, he’ll quickly thread to Shedrick, now all alone on the left block, before Swider can recover fast enough from the opposite side or before one of the two SU players up top — Buddy or Williams — can disrupt Beekman’s possession. It allows the guard to easily go up and score without any defenders near him.
This second layup before halftime will unfold just like the last one did. This time, though, Williams stands on the opposite side — playing lower than Swider was in the previous play — and Jimmy now guards Franklin beyond the 3-point arc on the left side.
Beekman’s again the screener, and Clark again curls around. It’s a near three-on-one situation for Edwards on the left block, though not as bad as the previous one because Williams is closer to the paint and Shedrick has crept toward the right block. Joe Girard III, this time, is perched on the left elbow to deny an entry pass.
Jimmy’s actually able to recover better and help Edwards guard Clark here, while Girard appears to be in better position to deny that pass to Beekman after he rolls. But Shedrick, as shown both above and below, has snuck behind Williams this time, and the freshman collapses on Beekman once the pass reaches him. It leaves the UVA center open for another dunk underneath, this time with a lot more space to work with.
This final clip unfolds in similar fashion to what happened on the previous two, only this time Clark doesn’t pass to the left wing and cut through Syracuse’s offense — Taine Murray (No. 10) is already perched in that same spot near the corner. Franklin, the UVA player on the left side closest to the Syracuse bench, starts to cut through the interior of the zone, between Buddy and Williams, and toward the spot where Beekman had rolled as a screener on the previous two possessions.
The ball cycles to Murray in the corner, and he feeds it to Franklin just like Clark did to Beekman. Shedrick has stationed himself alone on the right block this time, behind Williams, but Franklin ends up spinning past Williams and finishing the dunk himself. Notice how the high-post area wasn’t guarded as tightly by Symir Torrence — at least in the initial stages of the possession when the ball was on the left wing — as Buddy and Girard had guarded it in the previous two clips, allowing Franklin more space.
Published on January 5, 2022 at 1:50 pm