Sunday, January 11, 2009

Syracuse Preview

Here are the current four factors for the Orange:
.                    Offense         Defense
Adj. Efficiency 111.7 (32) 91.7 (44)
eFG% 56.3 (8) 43.5 (25)
Turnover % 21.1 (190) 18.0 (308)
Off Rebound % 35.2 (104) 33.7 (186)
FT Rate 30.5 (40) 22.0 (5)

One number is immediately shocking: a team with Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Paul Harris being mediocre at rebounding? How is that possible?

Well, it isn't the fault of those guys:

Player               O Reb%          D Reb%
Onuaku 12.3% 17.3%
Jackson 14.7% 20.8%
Harris 10.4% 19.1%
Ongenaet 12.1% 20.2%

However, a funny thing is happening with the guards. Neither Rautins, Flynn nor Devendorf grabs more than 1.5% of offensive rebounding opportunities. This number is so low that this almost has to be a conscious decision by Boeheim to get his guards back on defense.

It will interesting to see if our guards can take advantage of this to grab a few extra defensive rebounds, especially since fast break points may be hard to come by.

The Hoyas also have another bit of hope on the defensive boards. The Hoyas have defensive rebounded at a 66% and a 68% rate the last two games. If this is a trend, they may be able to hold down a Syracuse team that could very well go Pitt on them and grab 60% of the possible offensive rebounds.

Syracuse also presents a difficult matchup for the Hoyas because of their strength and the fact that they play zone defense all but exclusively.
The former has manifested itself not only in the aforementioned rebounding issues, but also in bumping cutters and disrupting our offense.

And zone -- the Hoyas have consistently played better against man to man than zone since John Thompson has been here.

Zones do have inherent weaknesses. For one, it's easy to shoot over them. Unfortunately for the Hoyas, they are only shooting 33% from three. That's not going to beat Syracuse if the team tries to go over the zone.

Zones also weaken defensive rebounding. Georgetown, unfortunately, only grabs an average amount of offensive rebounds at best.

The last way to beat a zone is the same way you can beat any help defense, and that is with great interior passing. Just like a quarterback picks apart a zone defense in football, players are open in a zone, often close to the hoop. It's just getting the ball there that is the issue.

And here's where improvement in the Providence game comes into play. Led by Greg Monroe's eight assists on 23 made baskets while he was on the floor, Georgetown assisted on 69% of made baskets against mostly zone defense.

That kind of play will be absolutely necessary against Syracuse. The Hoyas cannot rely on shooting over the zone, and they certainly can't rely on second chances, so they are going to have to pick apart the zone's rotations.

Ken Pomeroy is predicting an eleven point victory for the Hoyas and an 85% chance of winning the game
, but I find that suspect. The matchups are not strong for the Hoyas -- zone defense and rebounding in particular.

So I dove into Syracuse's previous games, expecting them to be underrated by Pomeroy's model. They only have one loss, in a complete letdown game to Cleveland State, and I expected their worst games to be against weaker opponents. A team that doesn't come to play against weaker opponents but turns it on against better ones will be underrated by most statistical systems.

For Syracuse, though, it really isn't true. They are actually one of the most consistent teams in college basketball, according to Pomeroy, and they have plenty of blowouts versus lesser teams and close calls against good but inferior teams. In other words, they are no different than any other team in that respect.

Still, the Orange will come to play. When was the last time they collapsed against the Hoyas?

Keys to the game:

  • Rebound. Syracuse is mediocre overall, but it's still a huge issue.

  • Get the ball to Monroe. He tore apart Providence's zone. Let's see what he can do against Syracuse.

  • Contain Johnny Flynn. Flynn wreaks havoc in the lane, draws defenders and fouls. He's simply their best player. But he, like the rest of the Orange, are turnover prone, so there is an opportunity there as well.


  1. Syracuse has been playing much less zone this year. In fact, they've played zone in only a handful of games, mainly being a few of these Big East games against DePaul, Rutgers, and Seton Hall where those teams couldn't shoot to save their lives. Granted they'll probably play a lot of zone against GTOWN because the Hoyas aren't the greatest team from deep, but I wanted to give you a heads up that this is more of a man-to-man team this year.

  2. We should really think about fouling Onuaku when he gets the ball down low. At least that would be a good strategy if Vaughn has to defend him. The guy is shooting just above 40% on the year and is the worst shooter on 'Cuse. Meanwhile the guy is 4th in the country in eFG%, shooting just over 70%. Now obviously some of that comes from tip-ins and undefended looks but even as a team Cuse is scoring 1.2 points per possession which gives them the 31st ranked offense in the country. But were their offense to consist only of Onuaku shooting free throws they would be scoring about .83 points per possession... ranking their offense near the bottom of the league. Obviously its not a strategy that can be used all game and I guess there are sportsmanship issues...but any possession that ends with Onuaku at the line is a victory for us.