In the first half of Syracuse’s game against St. John’s Wednesday, I tweeted this out:
If St. John's wins this game is Chris Mullin Cuse's new Jamie Dixon?
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) December 22, 2016
At the time, it was a joke. But after the Orange went on to lose by 33 to the Red Storm, it’s a question worth asking. Chris Mullin is now 2-0 against Jim Boeheim and his 2-3 zone, and this week we’re breaking down how it happened.
In each of Mullin’s wins over the Orange, St. John’s has shot the lights out of the gym and Syracuse hasn’t hit anything. In Wednesday’s game and last year’s matchup in Madison Square Garden, St. John’s shot a combined 44.4 percent from behind the arc while Syracuse shot 18 percent. Here’s a closer look at the numbers from each of those games.
- St. John’s 2015 3PT%: 32.5 percent
- vs. Syracuse: 12-25 (48 percent)
- St. John’s 2016 3PT% (going into Wednesday): 40.9 percent
- Wednesday: 12-29 (41.3 percent)
- Syracuse 2015 3PT%: 36 percent
- vs. St. John’s 5-26 (19.2 percent)
- Syracuse 2016 3PT% (going into Wednesday): 41.5 percent
- Wednesday: 4-24 (16.7 percent)
In both games Syracuse had been the better three-point shooting team as a whole, but failed miserably to get anything going against the Red Storm while St. John’s exceeded its season average in each of the games.
If St. John’s threes were the dagger in both games, the team’s work inside was the body blows leading up to it. In both games, St. John’s shot at least 50 percent from the field (50 percent last year and 53 percent on Wednesday). Chris Mullin has been able to get high-quality shots against the Syracuse 2-3 zone that has baffled so many coaches before him, and he’s done it with teams that — on paper — the Orange should have no trouble stopping.
Yesterday’s 33-point loss isn’t what makes me think Chris Mullin could be the next Jamie Dixon. The Orange did a lot wrong in that game. SU lost the turnover battle 19-7 and committed 24 fouls while only shooting 51 percent from the free throw line. Any of those things alone could have lost the Orange that game. Last year, that wasn’t the story.
In 2015, SU only turned the ball over six times to St. John’s 15. The Orange got 13 steals. Syracuse was outrebounded 42-36, but it wasn’t a terrible game fundamentally. Syracuse wasn’t making shots and St. John’s was; the Orange was either outplayed or outcoached. Last year, I would have told you it was the former, but this is two straight games where Chris Mullin has gotten his players easy buckets down low and open shots on the perimeter. He’s torn apart the zone twice without even a home-court advantage, which has me thinking he could be the next coaching nightmare for Syracuse fans. He knows how to beat the Orange, but the good news is that he won’t be coaching for long if he doesn’t figure out how to beat the rest of college basketball.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson