College basketball programs making a summer trip out of the country are afforded the opportunity to hold ten practices before leaving campus. With three key contributors, including their starting backcourt, gone from last year’s Final Four team one would assume that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim would want to use all ten practices.
That assumption would be incorrect however, as Boeheim elected to hold six practices before his team leaves for Canada on Monday.
Boeheim, though, has good reason to put more value on the Orange’s exhibition games than the practices. Syracuse is coming off a Final Four run, but the Orange has to replace its starting backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. Boeheim wants to see his young and inexperienced guards, namely freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and sophomore shooting guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, get some game action.
“I think these games are more important than practice,” Boeheim said. “We’re going to have a lot of practices once we get started (in the fall). I think the games are a good indication for us, especially since we’re playing good teams. If we played all bad teams, it wouldn’t help. With playing good teams, they’ll be able to learn more from the games.”
Boeheim makes a good point about the quality of competition Syracuse will face in Montreal and Ottawa, and that’s an aspect of offseason trips that tend to get overlooked. If a program excels against weak competition, while that may boost optimism within the fan base how much does that truly benefit the team in its preparations for the upcoming season?
It’s better to take on quality competition in these games, even if the end result is a record that doesn’t look as impressive as fans would hope to see. August isn’t the “endgame” but rather the beginning, with the purpose of these exhibitions being to properly prepare a team to have a successful regular season.
Had the Orange scheduled games against weak competition, it’s likely that they would have felt the need to use all ten practices. But as Mike Waters of the Post-Standard alluded to in the story linked above, ultimately we’re talking about practice.