Depending on who you are, that headline may or may not be a lie. If you're like me (handsome and the proprietor of a website for really smart people), the Syracuse basketball team isn't really on fire in either the figurative or literal sense. In fact, if the hoops team was literally on fire, this would be a national travesty requiring appropriate in memoriams and flags at half-staff and candle light vigils where we hold each other and say things like, "Everything is going to be all right."
If you're a Hall of Fame head coach with, like, billions of basketball victories, Orange hoops is a five-alarm job; there are fire engines from six towns surrounding the Carrier Dome and we should all pray for minimal loss of life. I'm not even making this up. Look at Boeheim's quote from Mike Waters' piece today in The Post-Standard:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! MY BASKETBALL TEAM IS ON FIRE! AND NOT LIKE NBA JAM "HE'S ON FIRE!!!" BUT THE REALLY BAD KIND THAT REQUIRES HOSPITAL VISITS AND SKIN GRAFTS AND STUFF!
So, we're at a realism impasse: Boeheim's position of, "Heads are going to roll and my machete is itching for blood" and my position of, "Woah, woah, woah. Hold on a second there, Genghis." The question is, therefore, "Who is right?"
The probably correct answer: Boeheim, because he is my basketball messiah and I shall read his testament and accept his teachings in my heart.
The other probably correct answer: Ken Pomeroy, because production, unlike former lovers, don't lie.
Let's look at a fancy aggregation of information and totally extrapolate things like professional extrapolators:
via hoyasuxa.files.wordpress.com (Click the image so that, you know, you can see the damn thing.)
Alright, let's pose and answer some questions:
- This team is a mess offensively, right? Wrong, dope. In fact, things offensively aren't that bad. In fact, the Orange are almost playing as well offensively in 2010-2011 as they did in 2009-2010. Now, there are only two games of possession data to work with here for the comparison, but as an offensive team, Syracuse is converting with virtually the same efficiency as last season.
- Yeah, but . . . . Easy there, chap. I'm doing the talking. What you're worried about is the first half-second half issue, right? Well, I'm with you on that, and that's probably the premise for Boeheim's distress. But that's a consistency issue, not an "overrated" issue. In totem, the Orange has been pretty good, but the journey has made me want to punch children. It's semantics, but it's kind of important. Regardless, I agree: Fix this, like, now.
- How can Syracuse win the Big East if it can't bury the bean? I like the way you think, friend. Let's talk a little bit about shooting, meaning, MY EYES ARE BLEEDING! Here's the problem through two games: The Orange is getting about 48% of its offense from inside the arc and is canning around 45% of those attempts. That conversion percentage is good for 166th best in the country. That's an anti-hooray. If so much offense is going to come from frontcourt players and folks driving to the tin, you need to convert. If you think I'm lying, let's take another comparison to last season: Syracuse was the country's best team in 2009-2010 in terms of two-point conversion percentage at a 57.1% clip. The Orange needs to improve on this post-haste because Arinze Onuaku ain't walking through that door. (Well, he is, but only to drop lyric bombs now.)
- Yeah, but . . . .Shutup. You want to talk about triples, I know. Here's the thing: I agree, but it's not first-level anxiety right now. Around 35% of the offense is coming from deep and Syracuse is canning about 43% of them. That isn't too bad (that's a higher conversion rate so far this season compared to last, but less of the offense came from beyond the arc last year). Hell, I don't even think that this is in front of Boeheim's mind as three-pointers have accounted for only 34% of the team's total field goals this season (more than last year, but not significantly so). You need to fix the big things before you worry about the smaller ones. (In other words, let's worry about Theodore Jones when we have to worry about him.)
- So, smart guy, what else are you worried about? The same things I always worry about: angry panda attacks and generating turnovers. There isn't much I can do about the former (it's just a matter of time until they take over the world, enslaving us to work the bamboo fields), but the latter still keeps me up at night. With all the length in the zone this year, you'd think that this team would be generating turnovers all over the place. False. Only 18.4% of opponent offensive possession end with a turnover (the team's steal percentage is only 10.3 . . . it was 13.6% less than 12 months ago). That's un-good. Easy transition points come from the swipe, and the Orange need to do a better job generating lost opponent opportunities. Get greedy and steal things. New York State criminal law does not apply to the game of basketball.
- Anything else that I should know to impress my friends?Yup. Very quickly, journalist notebook style: Syracuse is doing a pretty good job overall on the defensive end, but haven't seen any offenses really worth a damn yet (Syracuse's strength of schedule (offense) is hanging around 130th in the country) . . . Tons of opponent shots are coming from beyond the arc, which means that the zone is doing its job . . . Not only is Syracuse not getting to the stripe, it also isn't converting charity opportunities (wonderful) . . . The Orange is blocking shots, but not at a rate comparable to last year (this kind of blows my mind) . . . Syracuse's effective field goal offense and defense was worse against Canisius than it was against Northern Iowa (so, um, take that information and use it for whatever it's worth).
There's lots of work to be done, but it may be a little early for Boeheim to read the Orange Empire the full riot act. The foundation is sound but some renovations are in order.