WARNING: This column takes a look at the season statistics of all four teams in the Syracuse Orange pod. In no way should the fact that we look at the Kansas St. Wildcats or Southern Miss. Golden Eagles be taken as a sign that the writer believes we should anticipate a victory over the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs. We have no quarrel with the basketball g-ds here.
The NCAA Tournament is a vast field of 68 teams. As bracket-fillers, we need to concern ourselves with every game, each choice having massive implications on the rest of the field. As Syracuse fans, our interest should be much, much narrower. We have one weekend of games to worry about. There are four teams in our pod... one team I've seen exactly once this season, two teams I've seen not at all, one team I've seen 33 times. How can we compare them?
Statistics are liars. They tell you what happened during a season with misleading accuracy. And they give you false confidence that you can predict future behavior, which you absolutely can not. A skilled statistician has powerful tools that account for game-to-game variance, and clashing styles of play. I am not one of those. I will just tell you what each team did and attempt to figure out how they did it.
Please pay careful attention to the SOS number near the top of each card. It's a flawed metric, but it's the best we have to tell us against whom these stats were accrued.
First up, the #1 Seed Syracuse Orange.
The Big East schedule, as expected, caused a decent dip in our once-gaudy statistical profile. We remain 13th in the nation in offensive efficiency, and 19th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The only other teams in the top 20 in both categories are Kentucky and Ohio State. We did this, as Hoya Suxa elucidated long ago with his talk about beans, by taking care of the ball. It was reality. We turn the ball over less than all but seven teams in the country, while taking the ball away more than all but six teams in the county. No one compares to us in Turnover Margin.
Our glaring weakness, as mentioned a few thousand times this season, is our rebounding. I have nothing to add that hasn't been said already. We can overcome moderately poor rebounding by creating turnovers and with our interior defense (Hello, second highest Block % in the country and 15th highest EFG% defense), but we have to stay within striking distance.
(Yes, I am aware this gives away who the 2011-12 team is in the recent Blind Taste Test... this is more important.)
Next... the #16 Seed UNC-Ashville Bulldogs
UNC Asheville plays a consistently high-tempo game (Possessions per Game is 26th in the country... DePaul like), with an offense that is more efficient than SU's. But they did it in the Big South featuring such notable wins as Charleston Southern (split), Coastal Carolina (split), and the Virginia Military Instititute. And against that same schedule, they posted the 174th best defensive efficiency in the country.
I've never seen them play, but the Bulldogs are national powers in any thing that has to do with free throws. Their Free Throw Rate is 4th in the country and 25% of their scoring comes from Free Throws Made.
The above numbers are nice and all, but these are the really important numbers: 6'4" 6'5" 6'3" 6'1" 6'4" 6'1" 6'4". Those are the heights of the people that play meaningful minutes for the Bulldogs. If the game isn't going well, I assume we can put in Fab (7'), Rak (6'9"), Southerland (6'8"), Fair (6'8"), and Joseph (6'7") and just pass it above their heads.
The Bulldogs are 0-2 against our common opponents, losing by nine to NC State and ten to UConn.
The #8 Seed Kansas State Wildcats
I'm going to post their chart here, but the scary figure for K-State is 3-1. That's their record against #2 Seed Missouri and #3 Seed Baylor.
With the 49th SOS in the top-heavy but still strong Big 12, these numbers are easily comparable to Syracuse's. Oh... and awesome. They're the seventh best offensive rebounding team in the country. The good news is they're not that good at putting the biscuit in the basket, with the 172nd best Effective Field Goal Percentage and correspondingly mediocre offensive stats across the board. They do NOT like the three ball, ranking near the bottom third in makes, attempts, and points from three.
The Wildcats force a tiny percentage fewer turnovers than the Orange, but turn it over themselves a bunch more. Their EFG% Defense is very good at 42nd in the country and their Block % is high at 20th in the country. Without having seen them, this is a team that wins through its defense and rebounding.
KSU is 2-1 against our common opponents, winning by 13 against George Washington, by 8 against Virginia Tech, and losing by 5 to West Virginia in Double OT.
And finally, the #9 Seed Southern Miss Golden Eagles
What the hell, another great rebounding team? Yes indeed. Southern Miss is 14th in the nation in total rebounding percentage (23rd in OReb%, 38th in DReb %). Their DReb% may be because they miss a LOT of shots. Their EFG% is 47.02% (lowest in the pod and 264th in the country). They don't turn the ball over a lot either. Their stats make me think they just chuck it up and hope to get an offensive rebound or two.
They do force a decent amount of turnovers, but their defense is far from elite. They allow nearly a point per possession (117th in the country) and teams shoot an EFG% of 49.47% against them (208th in the country).
The Golden Eagles went 3-2 against our common opponents, both losses and one of the wins against Marshall, the other wins against Tulane (by five) and South Florida (by three).