“They really don’t have a weakness. That’s unusual.”
Words from Jim Boeheim on ACC Network earlier this week. His initial read on San Diego State, Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament first round opponent on Friday, is terrifyingly close to being completely accurate.
The Aztecs are top-110 in the country on both offense and defense, in effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage and rebound percentage. So, they shoot, they take care of the ball, they rebound, they defend. Who are these guys and what are they made of?
Anyone who’s ever used KenPom.com knows statistics that are strong are highlighted in green, and those which aren’t appear in red. Well, there’s only one speckle of red in SDSU’s profile: opponent free throw percentage (272 in D-1). AH HA, THEY DON’T CONTEST FREE THROWS WELL.
That’s not a weakness. But there actually is one. The Aztecs Brian Dutcher coaches a pack-line defense. They are outstanding at limiting penetration and protecting the interior. The flip side is SDSU can give up the three.
Overall, the Aztecs have the 11th most efficient defense in the NCAA. That is because opponents shoot just 44.5% on them inside the arc. That ranks 13th, and for reference, the D-1 average is 49.8%.
It’s on perimeter shots that SDSU’s defense becomes average. Opponents shoot 32.9%, giving the Aztecs the 126th-ranked three-point defense in the land. That’s not horrible, but consider the fact that San Diego State plays lower competition in the Mountain West Conference, and you can assume all their numbers are slightly inflated.
Teams shoot tons of threes against San Diego State (45.4% of FGAs), and are decently efficient at the same time. That bodes well for Syracuse, which is shooting 33.9% from three in the last five games. Look for Buddy Boeheim and the Orange to get some looks from deep, despite San Diego State’s strong defensive reputation.