Through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse has lit it up from deep. The Orange have hit 29 threes at a 50% clip. Unfortunately, the Cougars will represent a much greater challenge for the Orange’s perimeter shooting.
San Diego State played a pack-line defense that invited long range shots, and West Virginia was leaving shooters open all season. Houston, on the other hand, is holding opponents to 29.3% from deep, good for 12th in the nation.
Houston plays defense with a level of aggression that makes it difficult for offenses on all three levels, but usually results in a high number of fouls. The Cougars are 332nd in the country in defensive foul rate, and give up 24% of its points at the foul line (8th-highest in the NCAA).
The Cougars bad fouling habits have not resulted in losses, evidenced by a pristine 26-3 record. But part of that is because opponents haven’t done well to convert at the free throw line. Houston has been the 5th luckiest team in the country in opponent free throw percentage, seeing just 65.6% of its opponent freebies go for points.
Would Houston have a few more losses on its record if its opponents were able to take advantage of the Cougar’s most blatant defensive weakness? Who knows. But it’s unlikely Syracuse will fall into the same trap. The Orange shoot 78.2% at the stripe; top-20 in the country and well on pace for the best mark in program history.
Unlike SDSU and WVU, who the Orange could easily find open threes against, SU needs to take the ball to the rim and draw fouls against Houston. The two most primary candidates to execute that gameplan are Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier. Dolezaj is 27th in free throw rate, and Guerrier is 442nd.