Stats Say Syracuse Will Be Okay, Your Eyes Tell You Differently

After the loss to Georgetown, it’s hard to look at SU as an elite team.

Kevin Rivoli/AP

For as many talented players as Syracuse basketball has, there’s no question they’ve underachieved this year in big ways.

Analyzing the Orange reminds me of those baseball sabremeticians, who have all of their stats to back things up and ridiculous measurements like WAR, DIPS, LIPS, and UZR.

Numbers certainly tell part of the story, but can also drive you crazy. You also have old-school managers who rely on their gut to tell them whether to pull the struggling second baseman.

This analysis falls somewhere in between.

Let’s start with the gut, where you see a glaring four-game losing streak against Pittsburgh, Villanova, Seton Hall and Marquette. That was SU’s losing streak since the 2005-2006 season. It was the first time the Golden Eagles had ever defeated SU since joining the Big East.

As The Fizz surmised, we were lulled into a false confidence by the non-conference success. Last night against Georgetown, SU led with four minutes to go, but four minutes later were handed their fifth loss of the season. Does the country’s twelfth-ranked team cough up a lead like McLovin being pestered for lunch money? Apparently this team does.

It was GU’s first win at Syracuse since 2002. The Orange has now lost three straight at home for the first time since ’01-’02.

It’s starting to feel like we can make a trivia flipbook of all the stuff that’s gone wrong this season.

Interestingly, using numerical analysis there doesn’t appear to be too many places for improvement. In most scoring categories, the Orange finds itself in the middle of the pack:

  • 9th in scoring offense (73.2 ppg)
  • 5th in scoring margin (+10.7 ppg)
  • 4th in field goal percentage (.467)

However, one glaring number is that SU ranks dead last in free throw percentage. Sixteenth out of sixteen teams, the ‘Cuse is shooting just under 65 percent from the line. At the top, Villanova is shooting a hair over 77 percent.

Clearly, this means Mookie Jones and Matt Lyde-Cajuste need to play more minutes. They’re the only guys on the team shooting 100% from the free throw line. They’ve also taken a combined six free throws.

In Wednesday night’s game, Syracuse shot a very respectable 14-18 from the line, but those four points wouldn’t have won them the game.

This year has been about the big moment – getting a stop, hitting a shot, grabbing a rebound. Nabbing a board last night with :30 left could have made the difference. Instead, the five on the floor for the Orange watched it go over their heads and end up back with Georgetown.

When you think of the elite ‘closers’ in the conference – players who you’d want to hand the ball to when the game is on the line – how many of them play for Syracuse?

I would give the ball to Kemba Walker (and you should punch me if I wouldn’t), Marshon Brooks, and Ashton Gibbs. Throwing a name like Kris Joseph or Rick Jackson into that conversation just feels… wrong. Those two are 11th and 21st in scoring in the Big East, but my gut tells me they aren’t closers.

Malcolm Gladwell teaches us reacting instinctually can be beneficial in Blink, but I usually value statistics over the gut.

It’s hard not to wonder if it’s just one more rebound/shot/block/steal away from turning for SU. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Something just feels wrong this year. It feels even worse after a loss to Georgetown.

Posted: Mike Couzens

7 Comments on this Post

  1. OrangeCrush22

    I agree with you in ‘Cuse not having a Walker, Gibbs, Freeman, etc., that wants the ball in crunch times. Scoop forces way too many bad passes and shots per game lately. I mean c’mon JB take Scoop out of the game if he is making bad decisions, especially at the end where he turns it over and doesn’t hustle back on “D” to prevent an easy lay-up by Freeman.

    And can anyone answer me why Southerland isn’t playing as much? Is he injured? Doghouse? I mean ever since word got out of the whole “point shaving” debacle its like i haven’t seen Southerland for a few minutes if at all. He was on fire starting conference play.

    Also lets give Mookie a look. Good shooter, has size, veteran. JB if something isn’t workin, fix it. Don’t sit there and not utilize someone else.

  2. Orange Crush,

    Southerland’s numbers will give you all the inclination as to why he isn’t playing. The guy just isn’t efficient on offense or defense at this point in time.

    As for Mookie, there’s always that player that Boeheim doghouses for one reason or another. It never helps when that player happens to be the cult favorite among SU fans, for one reason or another. If Dion continues to struggle with his shot, I wouldn’t be surprised if 5-10 minutes opens up for Mook to prove himself.

    Thanks for reading!


  3. OrangeCrush22,
    I can tell you why James Southerland is not playing. HE IS TERRIBLE!!!!! He can’t play Defense or Rebound!! Here is a stat for you. He played 73 minutes in the three games prior to being benched against Pitt, Vill and S Hall. He got a total of 3 rebounds in that 73 minute time span and his defense sucked. TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE.

  4. OrangeCrush22

    uuuhhhhh…did i miss something here? We are talking about the James Southerland for the Orange, correct?

    Well i just looked at his stats and let me give you the rundown real quick…Here me out.

    First his, stats for 6 out 8 games that he came off the bench in BEast play, James was averaging:

    20.3 minutes per game
    6.5 ppg
    3 rpg
    …and almost a steal and block per game.

    Not to mention his length in the zone created an issue for opposing teams i’m sure (passing, shot attempts, dribbling).

    Oh not to mention his 12 point performance against a ranked ND team which we beat by 12.

    Stats for 2 starts (Pitt and Seton Hall):

    Pitt: 38 min. 8 pts, 1 reb., 4 ast, 2 blks, 2 3’s
    Seton Hall: 19 min., 4 pts, 2 reb.

    After the Seton Hall game, James played a whopping 2 minutes total with 2 points in the next 4 games. Didn’t play at all against Marquette or G’Town.

    So something has to give. Either he is injured or is in the doghouse. James doesnt give eye-popping stats, but he should be playing and gives “some production” off the bench.

    Stats courtesy of ESPN.

  5. Mookie isn’t playing because he can’t play D, I mean sure he sinks a couple threes but he makes it and runs back down the court and looks completely lost. Mookie is not the answer.

  6. Whether you agree with it or not, Boeheim went on the record saying the reason he benched Southerland was for his lack of rebounding.

    – Kanell

  7. OrangeCrush22

    I have a 2 family member’s who cover ‘Cuse basketball and they both told me that at a recent post-game presser, when JB was asked about Southerland he answered that “he had played himself out of the rotation.”

    Its just def frustrating, for me at least, to not see JB utilize Mookie or Southerland, when the rest of the “rotation” isn’t playing that much better.

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