Saturday, January 26, 2008

Time to Refocus

Jonny Flynn came to Syracuse with a reputation of being a great playmaker and a great scorer, but most of all a guy who was unselfish and would work the ball to his teammates to make the team better.

Flynn has not disappointed in many areas. The offense is often running in high gear, and over the whole season Flynn is shooting well (47.5% from the floor, 35.5% from three point range), making his free throws (77.5%), and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8 (not bad, not great).

His debut as an Orangeman was spectacular, hitting 10 of 13 shots, including six of seven from three point range, for a 28 point, 9 assist effort against Siena. He then reverted to being a true point guard taking no more than seven shots over the next four games.

However, I think a disturbing trend has started with Flynn, especially in recent Big East play. In his first seven conference games, Flynn has taken 101 shots, averaging nearly 14 ½ per game. He is scoring at a 16.7 points per game clip, his field goal shooting has dropped to 38.6%, and he is averaging 3.6 assists per game.

There are many factors at play here, so I do not necessarily want to point fingers only at Flynn. Eric Devendorf and Josh Wright leaving the team nearly coincided with the beginning of conference play. That definitely has required Flynn to generate more of the offense himself. Tougher competition on a routine basis is sure to make a difference. And a scoring slump by Donte’ Greene hurts too.

But, Flynn has not had more than 4 assists in his last five games (4, 1, 4, 4, and 2). He has had as many turnovers as assists during that time period (15). The last three games, Flynn has scored an average of 23.7 points per game, taking 57 shots (19.0 per game).

Why bring up how many points he scored as a negative? First, Flynn is supposed to make his teammates better. A point guard who does all the scoring is often a bad sign. He should step up and score when needed, but not lead the team by that large of a margin on a regular basis.

Flynn has scored 20+ points seven times this season. The Orangemen are 2-5 in those games. You could spin that positively by saying Flynn is stepping up big in the tougher games when his teammates are struggling. I think it may be more that Flynn is having problems getting the balls to his teammates in these tougher games, and is instead falling back on the easier position of taking the shots himself.

Arinze Onuaku is playing outstanding basketball since conference play has started. He has shot 39 of 58 from the floor, or 67%. He’s averaging 9.1 rebounds a game in conference games, four times with 10+. Onuaku was 5-7 against Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert, including 13 rebounds and 5 assists. He has only 10 turnovers in the seven games. He has 26 offensive rebounds.

Averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds a game is decent. However, consider Onuaku is averaging 8.2 shots a game, that means he is getting roughly 4 ½ shots a game from the regular offense (the rest are his put backs on offensive rebounds).

In the loss to Cincinnati Onuaku only had 2 shots. Despite his outstanding success in scoring from the low post, he only took 2, 9, and 7 shots in three of the losses (he did get 12 shots in the WVU game). In those same three games he had offensive rebound totals of 1, 4 and 6. That means he took 1, 5, and 1 shot in each of those games from the regular offensive scheme.

Syracuse has to do a much better job of getting Onuaku the ball in the low post. The responsibility starts with the floor general which is Flynn.

Again, I am not blaming the losses on Flynn. I am however concerned that his focus is on the wrong part of the game. He is only a freshman and has a lot of the game to learn; that is one of the values of playing college basketball for 3-4 seasons. You experience things and you learn and grow.

Donte’ Greene is struggling from the floor himself, and that does put pressure on Flynn. In the four conference losses, Greene is 24 of 56 (42.8%) and his perimeter shooting has struggled with 9 of 29 (31%). I think some stronger playmaking from Flynn may ease some of the defensive pressure off of Greene, and help him get back into the flow.

Hopefully the next two games against Providence and DePaul will let the Orange work some of these issues out. They definitely need to start winning. The team has a lot of talent, but they need a player to lead them on the court, and lacking a veteran elsewhere on the court, that job falls on the freshman point guard Jonny Flynn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've missed the boat here. AO dominated early against lesser competition because he wasn't facing any double teams.

He's got a solid feel and is a legitamate low post threat but is still struggling how to handle double teams. With Devendorf out and really Flynn and Greene the only shooters, teams can double down on AO and not have to worry about Scoop or Harris hitting threes.

That's the key - defenses have keyed in on AO... he doesn't get the easies he used to vs. ESTU, Cornell, or Colgate.

Flynn has to initiate more of the offense... the drive and dish works if you have enough shooters... this way the other teams have to be wary about collapsing. In this case - who are the shooters? Donte? That's it...

What's killing the team is Harris and Scoop's inability to make a shot outside 15 feet... teams have caught on to this... that's why the Devo injury was crippling.. he could drive, dish, and shoot the three... with him and Flynn... so it's not that their not getting AO the ball... defenses are keying on AO and they can because there are just not enough shooters to keep the D's honest