Syracuse is a team that averages 8.6 three point field goals made per game… They’ve averaged 11.5 makes in their last 6 games, going 5-1 in those games, with the one loss coming to UVA, on a buzzer beater. Certainly Buddy Boeheim has been making shots from everywhere and is playing with unmatched confidence. In trying to make sense of their recent form and in trying to figure out what it will take to win the game, I looked back on their last 6 games…
In chronological order…
70-72 home win against North Carolina… North Carolina ranks 167th in scoring defense and 255th in three point percentage defense… North Carolina only gives up 8 three point makes but still loses the game. More on UNC to come…
54-64 home win against Clemson… Clemson ranks 12th in scoring defense but ranks only 157th in three point percentage defense… Clemson gave up 10 three point makes in this game.
68-89 home win against N.C. State… N.C. State ranks 165th in scoring defense and ranks 262nd in three point percentage defense. N.C. State gave up 14 three point makes in this game.
69-72 neutral site loss to Virginia … Virginia ranks 6th in scoring defense but ranks only 157th in three point percentage defense. Virginia, despite their average three point percentage defense, only gave up 8 three point makes in this game and ended up winning the game… Holding Syracuse to under their season average.
78-62 neutral site NCAA Tournament win against San Diego State … San Diego State ranks 8th in total defense but ranks only 170th in three point percentage defense… San Diego State gave up 15 three point makes in this game.
75-72 neutral site NCAA Tournament win against West Virginia… Surprisingly and interestingly, West Virginia ranked a paltry 224th in scoring defense, with their three point percentage defense, coming in at 166th… West Virginia gave up 14 three point makes in this game. I just assumed WVU was good defensively (they usually are under coach Bob Huggins) but after watching them play against Syracuse, I saw exactly why they weren’t a great defensive team… They went underneath a lot of the screens and just weren’t physical/fast enough on the perimeter.
In researching Syracuse and their statistics…
Syracuse ranks 184th in scoring defense and a respectable 80th in three point percentage defense. My guess is that their zone defense contributes mostly to their three point defensive ranking… After watching them play, they aren’t exactly physically imposing/aggressive on the perimeter… We will get a fair share of good looks at three… We will likely need to make them at a better than average clip. All of that being said, yes, we struggle against zone defenses but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking this Syracuse zone is like ones in previous years… They just aren’t as defensively athletic or physical enough to consider their zone to be stout. Again, yes, we struggle with zone but theirs isn’t exactly a rubik’s cube.
- Syracuse ranks 159th in rebounds per game and 257th in rebound margin (-2 margin)
- In their 9 losses, they have lost by an average of 12.2 points per game. This is pretty interesting stat to me
In looking at some of the Syracuse losses on the season…
On 01/12, Syracuse loses a road game to North Carolina, 75-81… Syracuse makes 10 from three but they lose the rebound battle by 17. As a juxtaposition to their January loss to UNC, on 03/01, Syracuse wins a tight one against UNC, where Syracuse makes 8 three point shots (a shade under their season average), gets outrebounded by 20 but holds UNC to just 4-20 from three, for an average of 20% on the game… To add to this, UNC only shot 38% from inside the arc.
o UNC ranks 167th in scoring defense and 255th in three point percentage defense – their three point defense held up pretty decently against Syracuse, actually, despite their overall defensive rankings.
o UNC is an ELITE rebounding team - 3rd in total rebounds per game, 1st in offensive rebounds per game and 2nd in rebound margin. You may be asking yourself, how does UNC barely win the first game and barely lose the second game, all while completely dominating the glass? The answer is that UNC is an awful three point shooting team… ranked 307th in total three pointers made per game, at just 5.6. Their three point percentage make is 31.8%, good for a ranking of 263rd nationally.
Syracuse loss to Pitt twice… The first game was at Syracuse on 01/06, with Pitt winning 63-60… Pitt gives us 12 three point makes but outrebounds Syracuse by 15. Syracuse, again, loses at Pitt, 96-79 on 01/16… With Pitt only giving up 7 made threes and outrebounding Syracuse by 11.
o Pitt ranks 173rd in scoring defense but 92nd in three point percentage defense. Pitt is also an admirable rebounding team, coming in at 47th in total rebounds per game, 22nd in offensive rebounds per game and 35th in rebound margin.
- On 12/08, Syracuse loses a road game at Rutgers 69-79, with Rutgers only giving up 7 three point makes and outrebounding Syracuse by 16. It should be noted that Buddy Boeheim did not play in this game.
o Rutgers ranks a respectable 94th in scoring defense and 93rd in three point percentage defense.
o Rutgers was very average to below average in the rebounding department, coming in at 171st in total rebounds per game and 224th in rebound margin.
Where does UH stack up in a lot of these metric rankings?
- 2nd in scoring defense
- 5th in three point percentage defense
- 5th in total rebounds per game
- 3rd in offensive rebounds per game
- 6th in rebound margin, at +9
- 29th in three pointers made per game, at 9.2
While I would have to concede that AAC play vs ACC play is not the same and that these metric rankings need to be extrapolated, it is entirely fair to say that Syracuse has yet to see a team as well balanced and as tough as us. To that point, we have yet to face a team quite like Syracuse. Admittedly, the most concerning thing about this game, for me, is how we handle Buddy Boeheim… He is the spark that lights their fire and his current form has truly been incredible. If we can just wrangle him in a bit and not let him go off on us, we have the best chance to win the game, given everything else. If he continues to play, as he has been the last 6 games, we will lose the game (as would just about every other team), with major kudos going to Buddy Boeheim. He has been truly impressive.
What to make of all of this? In my findings/analysis, the key metrics for us to hit on Saturday night will be…
- Limit Syracuse to 8 or less three pointers made in the game. If we give up more than 8, we need to find a way to keep the number at 9 but 8 should be the number we measure success by. If their three point makes go to 10+, we will have to look to be up 3+ on three point make margin, which is very unlikely to happen. Besides, the more threes Syracuse makes, they’ll play with a higher level of confidence. Three point baskets will always count for more than two point baskets. That additional point and the psychological tole it takes, can make the circumstances difficult to overcome. DO NOT give up uncontested three point shots.
- Win the rebounding battle by 12+
- With the obvious emphasis on stopping Buddy Boeheim and the Syracuse offense, it will be just as important for UH to be mindful of how many points they put up, as well. Based off of everything I know about these two teams and taking into account the differences in schedules/league play, I speculate that UH will need to score 69 points to win the game. I sure hope we are working just as hard this week on offensive efficiency, as we are defensive efficiency… We are going to need it.
Side note about Syracuse… Both of their games against Louisville were cancelled this year… Interestingly, Louisville ranked 62nd in scoring defense and 28th in three point percentage defense. It’s not a stretch to say that Louisville wins one, if not both of those games… Leaving Syracuse at home for the tournament, while having Louisville dancing in the tournament. Just an interesting note, given that Syracuse sneaked into the tournament, while Louisville was the first team left out.
The contrasting styles of both teams should make both sets of fans nervous. Both teams seem to excel in the areas the other team is weaker in. Each team will be facing an opponent that they haven’t quite come across this season. Add to all of this, two hall of fame coaches and we have ourselves a truly compelling game.