The unfortunate side effect of some early season struggles is the inevitable blame game that begins among college basketball fans. Syracuse is 3-1, but there have been some pretty glaring flaws and, while Orange fans should be fairly satisfied with that record, fingers have already been pointed. After the second half of last season, it may not be surprising that many of those fingers are being pointed at Trevor Cooney. His shooting has clearly regressed, but it’s absurd to heap so much blame on the kid who is clearly our best option at the shooting guard position.
The most obvious deficiency with this Syracuse team is the lack of perimeter shooting. Because of his ability to get hot from outside and his reputation over the last few years, Trevor Cooney is the team’s lone “designated shooter.” Because of this, he gets unfairly blamed for the entire team’s perimeter shooting woes.
In fact, it’s gotten to the point where fans are clamoring for Buss Patterson and BJ Johnson to take his minutes at the shooting guard position. Let’s get one thing straight: the only player on the team who could realistically be taking any minutes from Cooney right now is Michael Gbinije, but in case people haven’t noticed, he’s a little busy covering up similar issues as the primary backup at the point guard and small forward positions.
But let’s get back to Cooney, Patterson, and Johnson. Yes, Cooney has been in something of a shooting slump that dates back to the second half of last season. I went in depth about that back in May, so I’ll spare you any time making the same points about why I think that slump may have started.
The fact that his shooting struggles have continued early this season is certainly troublesome, and it looks like his mechanics may have gone a little wonky. Again, I’ve covered the fact that he’s probably gotten too bulky, and it’s hindering the fluidity of his shooting stroke. But Frankly, I’m not here to talk about Trevor Cooney as much as I want to point out that, despite people railing against him and saying that there are better options on the bench, let me just put it bluntly: shut up, no there aren’t.
Look, I want to see guys like Buss Patterson and BJ Johnson emerge as impact players as much as anyone. I like the idea of having too much talent on the team, rather than not enough. But while people are saying that Patterson and Johnson haven’t been given enough of a chance to prove themselves, well, that’s crap. Have they logged starters minutes? No, but they’ve also gotten enough opportunities to show that for right now, they’re not the answer to any potential shooting guard troubles in particular, and perimeter shooting issues in general.
But don’t take my word for it, look at the numbers. In their season and change, Buss and BJ have gone a combined 13-for-56 from three point range. Don’t give me any crap about “well they were green freshmen” or “that’s not reflective on their improvement over the offseason,” either. Know why you can’t do that? Because this season, BJ is second on the team in three point attempts (despite getting a DNP – coaches decision against Iowa) and Buss is fourth. It’s not like they haven’t been getting any looks when they’ve gotten on the floor, yet this season they’re a combined 5-of-21 from long range. That’s 23.8% from three, for those scoring at home.
Patterson hasn’t made a field goal since the first game of the season, a blowout win against Kennesaw State, and even in that game he was just 2-for-9 overall. Johnson, after a strong showing against KSU, has gone 2-for-15 from the field against Hampton and Cal.
I’m all for using a deep, strong rotation, and I wish we had an outstanding backup at each position. But people need to accept the fact that right now, we don’t seem to have that many options who are going to help us out for the foreseeable future, at least until Malachi Richardson gets to campus. Shooting isn’t the only factor, of course, but Patterson and Johnson haven’t shown that they bring a lot else to the table. Johnson in particular looks completely lost defensively.
We can all wish for Buss or BJ to be getting more minutes, but what happens when they do, and they continue to struggle? Who will the fickle fanbase blame then?
I want Trevor Cooney to turn his season around, not just to shut up the people who unfairly heap hate and blame on him, but also because it’ll help the team as a whole. In the meantime, the haters need to just shut up and accept that Trevor Cooney is going to continue to get the bulk of the minutes at the shooting guard position because, like it or not, he’s the best option we’ve got.