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Why has Syracuse’s Offense Declined?

It’s only one game and it was Virginia but for some reason that loss Wednesday night just stung a little more than normal. Maybe it’s because the football team has been such a farce this year. Or perhaps it’s because after some solid exhibition outings there was hope the product on offense would be different this year. 

There is no reason to panic after losing game one to the defending national champions. But, 34 points is 34 points. It makes you wonder if it’s going to be the same old song and dance again from the Orange offense.

The numbers speak for themselves. Between 2008-2012, Syracuse was consistently one of the best teams in the country in several offensive categories. But since 2013 a lot of these stats make you want to close your eyes. 

*All stats are national ranking averages for time period according to KenPom.com* 

2008-2012

2PT FG%: 15th

eFG%: 33rd

AdjOffense: 18th

2013-2019

2PT FG%: 221st 

eFG%: 229th

AdjOffense: 93rd

After that dreadful shooting performance against UVA, Syracuse ranks 232nd in 2PT FG%, 235th in eFG% and 114th right now in AdjOffense, according to KenPom. Now that’s not really fair because it’s one game and it’s Virginia. But those season stats above comparing a six year stretch after a five year stretch are hard to ignore. They show a severe decline from 2013 on. 

Obviously, the defense has still been really good over this period of time. Syracuse has been inside the top 20 in adjDefense on KenPom every year since 2010, except last year when they ranked just outside at 30th. Those are the years they have played strictly zone after the Le Moyne loss.

Before that the 2006-2009 teams were ranked mostly between 30th and 60th in defense. So they’ve gotten better in one area and drastically worse in the other. 

Why is this offensive decline happening? Several theories are out there. You could point to less talent? Syracuse is getting less ESPN top 50 recruits since the Big East days. Some might argue lack of player development? The Orange haven’t had a solid scoring option at center since Rakeem Christmas essentially. These are both at least partially true. 

Another theory though that is unmistakable when you look at the stats is a change in tempo. KenPom has an awesome stat that tracks adjusted tempo. Now, obviously, fast tempo doesn’t translate to better offense. Just look at what Virginia has done. They are always slow and always winning. 

That being said, the 2011-2019 Orange have played much slower than the teams prior to the turn of the century. 

2011-2019 

AdjTempo Average: 223rd 

2002-2010

AdjTempo Average: 78th 

Just one team since 2011 has been inside the top 200 on adjusted Tempo on Kenpom. The 2015 postseason ban group finished 100th. 

This slow play could be linked to the change to strictly zone as well. You have to give some credit to the defensive numbers, but these offensive stats are alarming. 

Syracuse is 317th in the nation in tempo out of around 360 teams after game one against a really, really good defense. Not saying they will stay back there, but we expected change this year in the offensive style after the exhibitions. We expected a team that wanted to play faster.

As offensive numbers have declined so has the tempo. There’s no excuse for this team to play slow and stagnant again.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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