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Taking Sides Against the Family

"We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors."
- Weldron Drew
I never really wanted to write this essay, but I think I have to. It wouldn't be fair to sidestep the issue, and it is as follows:

Syracuse stinks because of Gerry McNamara.

[I think I just puked in my mouth a little bit.]

Look, Gerry is a very good player. He is, unquestionably, one of the 50 greatest players ever to don a Syracuse uniform. His heroics in the 2003 title game will go down in history as one of the most epic performances turned in by a freshman. But the fact still remains that Gerry is not the type of game changing player that can simply will the Orange to victory.

In fact, he is creating a lot of circumstances where defeat is a stronger possibility than victory.

A superficial glance at Gerry's numbers would lead you to believe that he is putting in quite the season. Averaging 16.2 points per game and 5.8 assists per contest is respectable. However, when you take a long look at McNamara's efficiency numbers, a new picture is painted.

McNamara is taking 27.5% of Syracuse's shots. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem given the fact that somebody needs to take a lot of shots. However, since Gerry has only generated a 43.4 effective field goal percentage, a problem has arisen.

Gerry's 43.4 effective field goal percentage can be explained a lot by his shot selection. Fall away three pointers and out of control runners in the lane are variables that are impacting the statistic. If McNamara would just set his feet and look for not a good shot but a great one, he could become, as he once was, a fiercely efficient bomber.

Mike Gansey of West Virginia is a great example of the type of mentality that Gerry needs to take on. Gansey has the nation's second highest offensive rating at 135.1 and it is due in no small part to his shot selection. Chiming in with an effective field goal percentage of 72.3, and knocking down 49% of his shots from behind the arc, Gansey is the nation's model of efficiency.

I concede the fact that Gansey and McNamara are of different builds; Gansey is a forward slasher while McNamara is a bullheaded guard like Scott Skiles. However, there is one aspect of the game in which they can each play the same, and that is shot selection. Gansey rarely takes a shot that makes you scratch your head. McNamara, on the other hand, rarely takes a shot that doesn't make you want to strangle children. Until McNamara changes his approach, he will never become an unstoppable player.

Now, back to the McNamara diatribe. Since McNamara is not knocking down his shot consistently, he is eating up Syracuse possessions (which is evidenced by his possession percentage of 26.1). When possessions are wasted on a player that has the third worst effective field goal percentage on the team, that is horrendously inefficient and potential points are taken off the board.

Basically, Syracuse has conceded the fact that it will not score every time it has an offensive possession by allowing McNamara to waste scoring opportunities. In essence, it's as if Syracuse is playing the game with half the offensive possessions their opponent will have. And that's a hard way to win.

Compounding Gerry's troubles is that he is simply settling for his 3-point shot, as noted earlier. If he were knocking down that shot consistently, there would be no problem. But when Gerry is only shooting 32% from 19'9", there is a problem. In total, Gerry has attempted a freakish 198 attempts from three; that is over 60 more attempts than his closest competitor, Demertris Nichols. That's totally unacceptable.

As the team's point guard and best free throw shooter, Gerry needs to start penetrating to the basket to create free opportunities to score. As it stands currently, McNamara only has a free throw rate of 25.5, third lowest on the team ahead of only Andy Rautins and Demetris Nichols. In short, it doesn't matter if you're knocking down 93% of your free throw attempts if you can't get to the line.

Finally, there is McNamara's assist to turnover ratio. Gerry ranks amongst the nation's top 285 in assist rate, posting a respectable 35.7 mark. However, the value of that number is greatly diminished by the fact that Gerry is giving away the rock at an inconceivable 20.1 rate.

That's not even within the nation's top 500!

In fact, McNamara has been so careless with the basketball that he is turning it over at the same rate as Terrence "Ovenmitts" Roberts. That's totally unacceptable.

So, as it is plainly evident, Gerry is really hurting this team with his performance this season. Whether it has come from taking too many poor shots or simply turning over the leather, Gerry deters this team from victory as much as he creates opportunity for victory.

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