It’s time for the Get-Right Game, Take Two — Syracuse basketball looks to get back on track against a team that shouldn’t compete with the Orange. The narrow win over North Florida didn’t do the trick; now, Boston University visits the Carrier Dome to take on a reeling SU team.
The Patriot League’s Terriers (which may or may not be a better name than Ospreys) tipped off the season with a loss to cross-city rival Northeastern before rolling up four wins in a row. They followed up that four-game win streak with a four-game losing streak, and still haven’t won in December. BU’s most recent loss came by double digits at the hands of Canisius, a defeat that may make Boston look horrendous — until you go back a couple games on the schedule, and see the Terriers only fell to UConn by two points. Sound familiar?
That was their most impressive performance of the season, though. BU really isn’t a good team; it’s ranked 179th in the nation by KenPom.com, hasn’t won a tournament game since 1959, and hasn’t beaten a team inside KenPom’s top 100 in three years.
At this point, though, it must be hard for Syracuse fans to feel confident that their team can handle anyone.
Boston is a decent offensive team; it scores 74.5 points per game, the 42nd-best mark in the nation. But it’s only average in terms of efficiency (148th, according to KenPom), and the raw scoring total is inflated by an above-average tempo.
The Terriers are led by Eric Fanning, a senior guard who dominates the ball more than nearly any player in the country. When the New Jersey native is on the floor, he “uses” 30.8 percent of BU’s offensive possessions, giving him the nation’s 47th-highest usage rate, per KenPom (a player “uses” a possession when it ends with him shooting the ball or turning it over). Fanning scores efficiently, with a solid true shooting percentage of 59.4, but only drops 14.8 points per game, because he plays just 24 minutes a night.
Fanning’s a terrific player, but Boston’s identity is depth. No Terrier sees more than 27 minutes per game; six average more than 20 minutes, and three more get at least 10. Remember when we thought the Orange could go nine-deep this season? BU actually does it.
On the defensive end, Boston struggles to do two things: force turnovers and stop the long ball. BU opponents cough up the rock just 12.2 times per game, good for 277th in the country, and the Terriers allow teams to drill 38 percent of their triples — that leaves them 269th in three-point defense.
That’s good news for SU, which has struggled to protect the ball and knock down shots from beyond the arc during its recent skid. In its three losses, the Orange has averaged 13 turnovers per game and canned only 18-of-64 treys (28.1 percent).
Syracuse should exploit BU’s weaknesses, and hold off a Terriers team that doesn’t have any business hanging with ACC teams. But with the way SU is playing at the moment, nothing is guaranteed.