RealGMBasketball.com's Dan Hanner has some choice words for Syracuse basketball in its first season in the ACC, and they are... "SU goes 12-6 in conference play." Hey, that's actually not too bad!
Yes, Syracuse Orange fans have gotten used to winning a whole lot of conference games, but as we learned from last season's 11-7 regular season, it's must more likely we win between 10 and 13 games in conference play than between 15 and 17. While it's still very early, Hanner and his projection system (whatever that means) do utilize some pretty numbers to give us a look at how Syracuse and the rest of the ACC teams will do in 2013-14. Hanner had something to say about each and every team, but SU received a pretty lengthy treatment in particular. He begins:
Unfortunately, Syracuse seems poised for another brutal offensive year. There were basically only four guys on the team that could score last year, and three of them are gone. The real problem is the lack of depth on the perimeter. My model has Duke transfer Michael Gbinije playing some minutes at the shooting-guard spot, but as Georgetown saw last year when they tried to play Otto Porter at that spot, a four forward lineup doesn’t have the right spacing. This is especially true given that among Syracuse’s returning forwards only CJ Fair has a true jump shot.
That means Syracuse will have to give a lot of minute to Tyler Ennis, Trevor Cooney, and Ron Patterson. Tyler Ennis might have a higher recruiting rank than Virginia’s London Perrantes, but he still isn’t a guaranteed star where he is rated. And Trevor Cooney was brutal last season. While the model predicts Cooney will be better this year, he certainly can’t be counted on to be a star. And Syracuse hasn’t had much success utilizing unranked freshmen right of the bat which isn’t good for Ron Patterson’s expectations.
DaJuan Coleman might become a high scorer next year, but it is a catch-22. While he is the only returning player who was a high volume shooter, he wasn’t very efficient (89.1 ORtg) last year. Part of that was an injury issue, but even with a fairly sizable jump in efficiency this year, he won’t be able to carry the offense. Don’t be fooled by transfer Michael Gbinije’s ORtg on Statsheet.com. He basically never played for Duke two years ago. The fact that he didn’t play says more about his expectations then whatever numbers he posted in garbage time in a few games. And don’t be fooled by Baye Moussa Keita’s efficiency either. Keita basically never shot last year. Syracuse has eight former Top 100 recruits on the roster, so they have talent. But it isn’t quite the right fit to expect a dominant offense.
According to his model, the Orange's most common lineup would be Fair (F), Ennis (G), Cooney (G), Grant (F) and Christmas (F), with Gbinije coming off the bench most often as a guard. I'd agree with this, but I can't necessarily say I see this as a four-forward lineup. Gbinije's build is extremely similar to that of one Michael Carter-Williams, and though he is less of a passer than MCW, I do see Gbinije as a true guard. Additionally, I'm unsure Christmas takes 50 percent of all available minutes at the "center" spot, when it's much more likely that Coleman's minutes increase as a sophomore. Hanner also had this to say about the defense:
Where I think the model may be wrong is not the offense, but the defense. The model is skeptical because Jim Boeheim has only had an adjusted defense below 89.0 once in his career. That one year was last season, so perhaps it will be repeatable. But Michael Carter-Williams had rare size at the PG spot. He made it brutally hard for teams like Indiana to get open looks at three and for players to make basic entry passes. If Cooney and Ennis can duplicate that, then Syracuse may be a Top 10 team. My model expects a solid but not historic defensive performance from Syracuse.
The model accurately focuses in on MCW's defensive presence and length, but appears to forget about Triche, who was 6'4" in his own right. Cooney (also 6'4") should be able to fill in there, and rotation of Cooney, Gbinije, Ennis and Patterson should be able to perform service-ably on that end of the defensive end of the floor, even if it's not exactly at the level of last year's guards. With a pretty staunch group of forwards (arguably more so than last year's), I have a feeling this could end up evening out the drop-off from Triche and MCW's departures.
So what do we think? Is Hanner correct in thinking that the offense is doomed, while the defense should pick up right where it left off? Or can C.J. Fair act as a highly effective and productive focal point for a group looking for a premiere scorer? Anything else he or I might be wrong about? Share your thoughts in the comments below.