Making Sense of Syracuse and Their Current Form. What it Will Take to Win the Game

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.


Nice breakdown, except that I don’t see where Syracuse excels at something that is a weakness of ours. Syracuse excels at making 3s and we’re one of the best in the nation at limiting 3s. So their strength plays right into one of our strengths. I think our biggest weakness coming into this game is post-scoring. If our guards are not able to squeeze off 3s against the zone, or are not making them, we will have to go inside for midranges or in the paint, and neither of those are our strength. But defending against those is also not Syracuse’s strength. After everything I’ve read on here an elsewhere, it really feels like as long as we don’t have a terrible game (ala Tulsa or ECU) we should win this one. At least on paper. But as we all know, anything can happen on any given night.

1 Like

Their ability to make the 3 (regardless of our defensive ranking), coupled with our tendency to go on scoring droughts, is something to be concerned about. After watching Syracuse play SDSU and WVU, one has to be impressed with how they are shooting the ball, especially the 3 ball. The 3 ball travels well and especially in the tournament… lots of hero ball moments happen in the tournament and often times, it involves the 3 ball. To add to this, Buddy Boeheim has a size + skill set we haven’t seen all year. High release point and great mechanics. Dolezaj is a very clever player, himself. We just haven’t seen guys quite like them this year or prior to this year, for that matter.

I am with you, they have an advantage inside but if you’re Boeheim Sr., do you go away from what’s working or do you attack a perceived weakness, because it makes basketball sense?

If we beat the zone and win offensive rebounding I don’t think they can make enough 3’s to over come our on ball switching defense. All of that is of course contingent on us scoring on their zone. Gonna be a good one.

I like our ability to switch the picks. If we keep the guards in front of us I think we are going to be in really good shape.

1 Like

It sounds like we need to make sure Girard doesn’t get comfortable and light it up like Marcus can.

We can live with buddy having a great night. But, need to make sure the others don’t have season or tourney highs against us.

1 Like

Yeah, Gerard is averaging 44% from three, in his last two games… He is normally a 35% 3PT shooter.

As bad as Sasser’s shot has been lately, his defense has been really good. There’s no way Girard gets comfortable with Sasser guarding him.

I am with you on his defense and I am really hoping he can start to give us something again, offensively. At this point, we are counting on it.

What struck me about Girard’s and Boeheim’s three point shooting in the tournament is the range they have been able to show… They have taken a lot of deep, deep shots and have connected on more than you might expect. While I am a believer in thinking, at some point, something has to give, our guys need to know at which length Girard/Boeheim, are willing to take the shots from. Have to stay out on them and give a little on dribble penetration, if you have to. Early on, WVU didn’t pick up Girard until he was basically at the three point line… Just gave them all of the time and space to set up their offense… I couldn’t understand it. I was shocked at how WVU tried to defense Syracuse.


im not as worried about total 3s… to me its a mix of volume and percentage…

they can hit 10 3s, on 45atts, id consider that a win… they can shoot 50% of 8attps, id consider that a win

im also more interested in how healthy dejon is to defend than i am about buddy shooting… i dont focus on scoring defense when looking at matchups because that is vague and there are many ways to defend… for example sdsu’s defense is built around an elite rim protector, Syracuse mostly just shots 3s, with a tall lineup…so their rim protector was less a factor, and their 5’7 pg played a bigger factor

sdsu, nc state, Virginia defended their shooter with smaller guards… wvu switched it up and defended buddy with their 6’7 pf…the issue is the PF kept getting screened and going under the screen. he had trouble staying with buddy (not used to defending a guard). buddy didnt actually make any shots over the PF (directly infront of him) when their wasnt pick help (catch and shoot or iso)

notice the picks, losing Boeheim, also Syracuse trying to force the switch to have 6’2 sean McNeil defend buddy instead

we have multiple 6’5 guards, who know how to defend the 3 and know not to go under the screen vs a shooter

and our rebounding edge is the biggest key to me… some will say their win over UNC is a sign they can beat an elite rebounding team, but that game is actually encouraging for us
UNC went 4-20 from 3, 14-22 from the FT line, 20 Tos…AND still only lost by 2… think abut that

we rebound differently than UNC (they use size), so it hard to say we can replicated what they did…if we cant get +15, we get a huge advantage


I agree… Very much concerned with volume shooting.

I am having to assume DJ will be as serviceable, if not more, than he was against Rutgers. Without DJ, we cannot win the game… His ball handling, length, defense, leadership are all in the formula of winning the game (and his recent point production, too!).

I echo your point about SDSU’s defense and why I highlighted their total scoring defensive rank of 8th but their three point percentage defensive ranking of 170th… That was a bit eye-popping to me.

How UVA defended against the three is a lot more how we’re going to defense them. About SDSU’s similar strategy to guard with smaller guards… I watched and the main defender, was just not quick enough and quite frankly, just not good enough defensively, to hang with Buddy Boeheim. Our guards are way more capable than what SDSU threw out at Syracuse.

As I mentioned earlier, I could not get over how many time WVU defender got caught or went underneath the screen… It was unfathomable to me. I agree, we will execute better than both SDSU and WVU.

Yeah that win over UNC had way more to do with everything UNC did wrong and as you pointed out, they did everything wrong but rebound. UNC basically played about as bad as they could play and it was bad. In the end, it only resulted in a 2 point loss.

I have the rebound advantage needing to be 12+ and so yeah, if we are 15+ on rebounds, watch out!

1 Like

I think we win if we hit 82% of our FTs.

Don’t know why. It just feels like it could be a pivotal piece of data based on where we’ve been lately.


Haven’t you guys watched Lily on the ATT commercials, we just have to score more points. She really simplifies things.

1 Like

and shoot from the elbow not the spleen

1 Like

lol its basically, they make shots we have to defend that…
we rebound well, they rebound bad… we could have huge edge there

No, no, no. We just have to ‘bite first’. Coach teaches that on day one. Lol.

1 Like

UH has the right personnel to attack the zone. Gorham and White flashing into the middle of the zone at the FT line can do a lot of damage. Combine that with the Coogs strength on the offensive boards and it may not be very close. Just have to stay on their shooters.

1 Like

Hey Guys…Cuse fan here.

I currently live in Florida but have lived about 20 years in TX (Hill Country and San Antonio), hence my username. Feel free to post over at

Statistics for Syracuse will give you some misleading facts. Our team lost our starting center for the year basically 5 mins into the first game of the season. That set them back. Then Covid pauses and players actually getting Covid. Buddy was one of those players…he didn’t regain his strength and shooting stroke until very late in the season.

As for Louisville: they dodged Cuse twice this year with “strategic” covid cases…worst case we would have been 1-1 with them but I think we would have beat them twice as we were in a good place when the games were scheduled. Weird schedule as all our toughest games were on the road his year.

Player Synopses

Marek Dolezag our Center and PF (From Slovakia). Tall and lanky. Great passer and a VG shooter. Exc FT shooter. He is the guy that stirs the drink of our offense. Too unselfish at times. Houston needs to try to foul him out. He does the important little things for the team. Will be a Euro player…future coach

Jesse Edwards 2nd String Center (From the Netherlands) he is still a project but actually has some upside to be a 2nd or 3rd String NBA Center in 2 more years. Athletic and can rebound and block shots. Prone to foul but can score 4-8 pts for us. NBA TBD, Euro likely

Quincy Guerrier Power Forward Athletic Jumping Jack with a 3 pt shot. Still learning the game (from Quebec). He has been a scoring slump lately. Gets rushed by bigger guys around the hoop and will miss bunnies. Pretty emotional player who can get into the zone though. He needs to stay one more year in college before declaring. NBA probable but he feels like a 2 year contract guy who will bounce between the NBA/G League as a tweener.

Alan Griffin Small Forward (Transfer from ECU) he is our enigma. He seems to be a shootist who at times gets lazy on defense. His shooting is streaky. Super athletic and has a 40"+ vertical. If he gets hot in the zone you will probably lose. He hasn’t been in the zone in weeks…so he is the wild card. G League player or Euro

Robert Braswell 2nd String Forward VG defender but skinny. He can make the 3 pt shot and has the green light to shoot. He often comes in for Griffin when Griffin makes a defensive mistake. Pro?? I think he needs to gain another 25 lbs first

Buddy Boeheim 2 Guard the team leader and has 3 pt range out to 28 feet. The other players love him. Can be broken down with a super quick and tall guard. You obviously need your best defender on him. Exc FT shooter. Rebounds well but only average speed. on course to be an All American in '21-'22…we’ll see. Could make an NBA roster as a shooter. Future Coach. He actually could stay in college two more years.

Joe Girard PG shortest player/biggest attitude. Was an all state QB and BB player. VG FT shooter. 3 point range in his mind to mid court…realistically out to 25’ He is streaky though. Prone to turnovers under pressure. Future Coach if he stays in BB after graduation

Kadary Richmond 2nd String Guard Best ball handler under pressure, has long arms and causes turnovers. Often replaces Joe. If he comes in he can create a few points but is there primarily for defense and taking pressure off the other guard. NBA Potential but needs a few more years in college, TBD

I hope this helps. Our idiot fans were happy that Rutgers lost (old rival) but seriously they are much easier to defeat than the Coogs. Most of us hope our A game will beat your B+ game…you guys are 6 pt favorites for a reason.


Thanks for the link. Lots of activity on that forum.

Here’s the UH thread if anyone wants to hear SU fans thoughts.

I’ll take shots from the spleen if they go in…