This Week in Stupid: The Post-Standard Insults Your Intelligence VI

Installment I: Limiting Turnovers

Installment II: Blanket Shooters

Installment III: Forgo Three-Pointers

Installment IV: Get to the Line

Installment V: Control Boards

This is it.  This is when I bring it all together and provide complete enlightenment as to why Syracuse is 9-0 and nationally ranked.  This is the thesis conclusion, where all problems are identified and superior play lauded.  The apex; we've climbed the mountain.

Or it totally isn't.  That's the thing, and I kind of bamboozled you all into it: There aren't five reasons why Syracuse is undefeated.  I'm not even convinced that there's one reason why Syracuse is undefeated.  And that's the point, isn't it?  Ultimately, it was foolish for The Post-Standard to try and distill the Orange's unblemished season sunrise into five reasons.  There are so many factors that go into each game that you really can't extrapolate big items and say, definitively, "Yes, this is why Syracuse wins."  Honestly, this team shouldn't even be unbeaten.  In fact, it should probably have a few losses given how the team has played. 

All that is valuable, I think, is fleshing out the proffered thoughts, provide some illustrative insight, and refocus the conversation.  That's all I think we can do and that's all that's worthwhile.

Anyway, to try and complete the thousands of words already written, here are two reasons that I think are sound points for why Syracuse is undefeated.  I'll even add three of the newspaper's points as important so that there are five things you can tell your friends about.

Here we go:

SYRACUSE HAS RICK JACKSON, OPPONENTS DON'T

The big fella has had an impact this year that is beyond significant.  He has played ridiculously consistently and is truly a national-caliber player.  To wit:

  • He's in the top-400 in offensive rating and he's 269th in effective field goal percentage on a terrible shooting team.
  • His true shooting percentage (similar to effective field goal percentage, but includes trips to the line), is in the top 440.
  • He's in the top 150 in both offensive and defensive rebounding, a key aspect to Syracuse's efficiencies (especially defensive) this year.
  • His turnover rate is around 15.0, which is pretty good for a big man that has had his hands questioned and spends most nights keeping hands and arms away from his body.
  • His block percentage is 6.6, 132nd nationally. Not bad for a power forward.
  • He isn't committing fouls.  I'll write that again in italics, because not everybody reads things well: Rick Jackson, king of the slap in prior years, isn't committing fouls.  1.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes, to be exact.  Why is this important?  Well, it keeps him on the floor (and Syracuse needs him on the floor), and it also means he's playing aggressive defense (see, block percentage) and not doing it stupidly (cf, Melo, Fab.).

So, that's what Jackson is.  Let's talk about why Jackson is important:

  • His steady performance smooths out erratic play from guys like Scoop Jardine (Scoop's using up 27.1 of Syracuse's possessions and shots and only doing it with an effective field goal percentage of 38.9).  If Syracuse's is truly intent on starting the offense from the blocks, Jackson is the guy that can do it.  He has single-handedly made a terrible offense look bad (which is a compliment).
  • Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds.  We talked about this, and Jackson is the catalyst (with Keita).  Here's the reason why: Keita likes to commit the foul (5.6 per 40 minutes), and if Keita needs to go to the bench, Syracuse still has Jackson to work the glass.  That's value.
  • He gives you minutes.  86.9 percent of the time Syracuse has played, Jackson has been on the floor. For a guy that does so much when he's on the floor, it's hard to not say that he isn't significantly impacting the game (and wins).

TOMATO CAN OPPONENT OFFENSES

Everyone likes to say that Syracuse has played nobody yet this year (save Michigan State) and that's why the Orange is undefeated.  That's true (Syracuse's non-conference strength of schedule is the 83rd toughest in the country), but it's an incomplete thought.  A big reason why Syracuse is undefeated is that the Orange have faced horrific offenses, playing right to the Orange's strength (it's defense and three-point defense).  In fact, here's a run down of the opposing offenses Syracuse has faced:

TEAM OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY OFFENSIVE EFFECTIVE FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE THREE-POINT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

Northern Iowa

100.3

42.9

25.5

Canisius

96.4

47.9

32.1

Detroit

98.4

48.4

32.9

William and Mary

93.6

48.7

34.0

Michigan

102.7

49.5

31.0

Georgia Tech

101.9

45.4

27.9

Cornell

98.1

45.3

35.4

North Carolina State

108.1

48.0

31.4

Michigan State

112.2

54.7

39.9

NATIONAL AVERAGE

100.0

48.5

33.9

 It's fairly clear: Syracuse's defensive monster has eaten up these bad offensive teams, especially ones that can't shoot the triple.

Now, there are outliers here (it's easy to see) and I'm not going to address each because they've received treatment in other essays.  But the premise remains: Syracuse is undefeated, in part, due to playing terrible, terrible offensive teams (in totem, the aggregated offensive efficiencies of these teams is 101.3, good for 135th in the country in "offenses faced").

So, those are my two big ticket items for why Syracuse is unbeaten.  To give you five, I'll also add (and these were addressed previously):

  • Offensive rebounding.  If you can't shoot, you need offensive rebounds to extend possessions and play blunderbuss basketball.  The actual numerical correlation is low, but it's flooded because of the team's shooting woes.
  • Defensive rebounding: If you can't shoot, you need to limit an opponent's second chances. Syracuse hasn't done a stellar job at defensive rebounding this year, but good enough, especially when they needed it.
  • Aggressive, pressure defense: There's two reasons for this: 1) The team is winning with defense; and 2) The team is doing so without committing fouls.  If you want more on this, check out the "Blanket Shooters" essay.

Anything else, I think, is either "talking head" speak or unfounded.  These five things are probably the biggest five reasons why Syracuse is undefeated.  As I mentioned, though, even I'm skeptical thinking that you can distill the team's performance in nine games into five supportive reasons.

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