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Syracuse-Iona: A Deeper Look into the Orange's 83-77 Victory

While The Post-Standard didn't insult our intelligence in anything this week (oh wait, yes they did. More on that tomorrow), they didn't really give readers an accurate gauge on how good this Iona team actually is and how good of a win Saturday's victory was.

Now Iona isn't exactly going to grab headlines (yet), but the Gaels are arguably the best squad in the MAAC, a conference that produced all these great Siena teams of late.

I covered the Old Spice Classic in Florida last season. Iona was technically the host team in the tournament which included the likes of Baylor, Florida State, Xavier, Marquette, and a few other teams. Iona left that tournament 1-2, but played Baylor (and its ridiculously long 2-3 zone) and Florida State (also, ungodly long), pushing those teams to the brink.

The Seminoles mustered just 54 points against the Gaels while the Bears needed overtime to escape.

This year's Gaels returned their starting five and added Michael Glover who showed on Saturday that he belongs in the Big East where he intended to be several years ago.

Iona already beat a Richmond team that could easily be the top option to be this year's Butler.

All this said, the P-S should have made it clear how good this Iona team actually is.

And with that said, there's a lot of good and bad that went on Saturday.


Iona delivered what Syracuse needed: a porous defense. Iona ranks 295th in effective field goal percentage which means even a team as putrid as Colgate might actually make a basket or two against the Gaels. Other than the Colgate game, this was probably the first time all season you found yourself not yelling at the television over shot selection.

What made Syracuse so good last season offensively, is that the ‘Cuse shot the ball at the best rate in the country. What kept the Orange from being perfect offensively is a ridiculously high turnover rate (you can thank Andy Rautins for that, and yes, the Golden Boy did do some things wrong last year).

Last year, turnovers kept a great Orange offense from being perfect. This year, not turning the ball over keeps an okay Orange offense from being embarrassing.

Historically, Syracuse turns the ball over on one-out-of-every-five possessions. That's just how it is. It's been this way every year since 2004-2005.

But not this year.

It's once every six possessions. Scoop Jardine has played more under control, and Andy Rautins is no longer slinging dangerous one-handed passes around the Loud House.

(Side Note: I'm working on finding a statistical correlation between TO rate and eFG rate in college basketball because it's possible, for example, that Syracuse shot the ball better last year because it uses more risky passes to get easier baskets).

Conclusion: If this team can figure out how to get easy baskets without being reckless with the ball like last year, this offense can be just as good as last year without the headline grabbing stars like Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins.

The Bad:

The defense Saturday was putrid. Michael Glover had his way around the paint as the wings (no matter who it was, Kris Joseph, CJ Fair, Rick Jackson, or James Southerland) could locate Glover on the baseline.

It was a very similar performance as against Florida in 2008 when Alex Tyus ran the baseline for 40 minutes, getting layup after layup while his teammates shot three-pointers on practically every other possession.

Syracuse can let a guy run wild on the baseline if it means stopping everything outside the arc. But the ‘Cuse didn't. It lucked into a terrible shooting performance from the Gaels. And by Gaels, I specifically mean Jermel Jenkins and Kyle Smyth who combine to shoot 43 percent from three this year. They could have easily gone all-Kyle Kouric on the Orange's asses.

But they didn't. They missed wide-open three after wide-open three.

Iona passed the ball extremely well as the Orange couldn't rotate quick enough to put any pressure on the rock.

The result?

Iona had 24 assists on 26 baskets. That's a number that should scare Jim Boehiem. His defense can't get away with a number like that in Big East play. He needs that number lower which usually means opponents are forcing more shots after making one-on-five moves against the zone.

Conclusion: If the Orange's offense performed Saturday like it did during the first two weeks of the season, the ‘Cuse would have lost that game by double-digits. This team is good, but it isn't consistently good on both ends of the floor. The season opening win against Northern Iowa, the trouncing of Michigan State in MSG, and the romp against Colgate remain this team's only complete games of the year.

When you've played 11 games, mostly against inferior competition, three complete games out of 11 is unacceptable and remains a red-flag about this team.