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