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Inconsistent Orange Open Invite Notre Dame to the Dome

Syracuse's Alan Griffin (white) blocks a layup to keep the game tied vs. Buffalo with seconds remaining.

The Syracuse men’s basketball team is off to a strong start, posting a record of 6-1. Most of the Orange’s opponents, however, have been non-conference teams with lesser expectations than the talent-packed squads of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Beginning Tuesday, there are no more mid-majors. SU takes on Notre Dame at the Dome and embarks on the conference schedule, with only Georgetown left in terms of non-conference opponents.

Despite only losing one game overall, the closeness of certain matchups may cause concern for Syracuse as the level of competition increases going forward. SU beat Bryant by one point in the season opener, got by Northeastern by a thin margin of six, and defeated Buffalo this past Saturday in overtime after overcoming a 16-point second-half deficit. Jim Boeheim seems more concerned with the first two than the latter.

“It was an unbelievable comeback,” Jim Boeheim said after the win over the Bulls. “…The other two close games we had [with Bryant and Niagara] … we didn’t play well.”

Regardless of which mid-major wins were most important, Syracuse was an unlucky bounce or a sensational game-saving block away from having lost multiple more games.

Inconsistency on offense has been a major problem for Syracuse in the lead-up to Notre Dame.

Joseph Girard III, who finished third on the team in points per game last year with 12.4, has taken a step back so far. The guard is averaging 11.1 PPG, which is not much lower than last season, but his struggles to show up on a nightly basis have troubled the Orange.

In three of SU's games this year, Girard has put up 17+ points (Rider, Boston College, Northeastern). In the other four, though, the point guard has failed to reach double-digits. Girard’s instability and Buddy Boeheim’s quarantine due to COVID contact tracing, have helped uncover a young star in the backcourt, though, Kadary Richmond.

Richmond played a major role in the comeback versus Buffalo. The freshman scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked three shots in 32 minutes.

“I thought Kadary was great,” Jim Boeheim said postgame versus Buffalo. “…I thought he got in the lane and made plays.”

Girard, meanwhile, scored just two points and registered only 16 minutes on Saturday after starting the game. Jim Boeheim says he is not worried about the point guard after another down performance in the early season.

“Joe was not there tonight,” said Boeheim after Buffalo. “But he’ll be back.”

Syracuse does not just need Joe Girard back to beat Notre Dame, SU must return to form from behind the three-point line. In the last two games, the Orange have shot an abysmal 5-for-37 (13.5%) from beyond the arc.

“We’re not making enough threes,” Boeheim said Saturday. “We had some opportunities [versus Buffalo tonight] … and we just haven’t made those threes.”

Quincy Guerrier smiles during a big personal performance, a career-high 27 points, and team performance, 11-point win over Buffalo.
Quincy Guerrier (white) thrived for SU despite the team's inability to make threes. The Canadian scored a career-high 27 points versus Buffalo including two three-pointers.


The shooting issues of the last two games could not have been a bigger surprise for Syracuse. The matchup prior, versus Boston College on December 12, SU set a single-game program record for three-pointers made with 16.


Luckily for Syracuse, Notre Dame is one of the worst teams in the country at defending long-range shooting. The Fighting Irish allow opponents to hit over 38% of threes this year, which ranks them at 292nd in Division I men’s basketball.


Regardless of Notre Dame’s deficiencies, the clocking is running out on SU’s ability to win without consistent scorers. The ACC can punish the Orange’s lack of shooting in a manner that mid-majors did not.


If Girard has more off nights, or the outside shooting continues to flounder, the conference schedule may not be kind to SU.


Syracuse and Notre Dame tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tune into to 88.3-FM, or the WAER App at 6:30 p.m. for Countdown To Tip Off.