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Syracuse Basketball: "By The Numbers" Useless; Replaced with Mini Trend Report

When the incredibly good (and bad) numbers are the story of a basketball game, what could a stats nerd possibly have left to add? A lot, as it turns out.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

So, this stats-based feature was supposed to provide you with things that make you go "hmm." Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not, but that was the idea.

I wrote about Baye Keita doubling his season average for rebounds in the Miami game. Remember? And before, I mentioned how surprising it was that the Orange only committed 10 turnovers against UNC, matching its season average, despite having 8 in a sloppy first half. Those little nuggets may not have been game-changing, but they probably made you go "hmm, that's interesting," right?

That's the problem with last night's game against Notre Dame. Stats reigned supreme; they were the stars of the show. Trevor Cooney hit 73% of his shots. C.J. Fair was 15% on 2-of-13 shooting. Syracuse was outscored in the paint. Bla bla bla. You already know the interesting numbers that I'd highlight, so what could I possibly tell you?

Well, in an effort to keep my "job," I got creative. Behold: The Mini Trend Report. As we approach the back end of the regular season, I took a look at some overall numbers. A few caught my eye, so I thought I'd fill you in.

Team Stats

Non-conference: 68.7%
Conference: 72%

A steadily increasing free throw percentage is great. When the end-of-game foul parade starts, having reliable free throw shooters is key, especially in close games like those the Orange is likely to see in the NCAA Tournament. Often, this is the difference between a win and a loss.

Turnovers Per Game

Non-conference: 10.3
Conference: 8.1

A lot of the trends I noticed, whether good or bad, are simply a function of Syracuse playing better teams now, than in the non conference portion of the program. Is their field goal percentage lower now? Yes, but the Orange is also playing teams that generally defend better.

Along the same lines, you might also expect Syracuse's turnovers to go up slightly once they start playing teams that have upped the ante on defense, right? Wrong! The Orange averaged 10.3 turnovers in the non-con, as opposed to 8.1 in conference play so far. That's significant. Syracuse is playing better opponents and turning the ball over less? Yes, please. This is a great indicator of maturity and all-around improvement.

Assists Per Game

Non-conference: 14.2
Conference: 11.2

This is an unfortunate trend. Not only does Syracuse have fewer assists in conference play, but the Orange assists on a smaller percentage of its buckets, too. In the first 13 games, Syracuse assisted on 52.7% of its makes, but in the ACC, that percentage has dropped to 49.9%.

I'm not explaining this trend away by any means, but don't forget that recently, a couple players have taken over games by themselves, which cuts down on assists. Not only that, but a few have been able to create more of their own shots lately, and that's a good thing. However, Syracuse needs a healthy balance in this category to be successful, so it's something to keep an eye on.

Individual Stats

Rakeem Christmas Blocks
Non-conference: 1.3
Conference: 2.2

Some of this is due to playing more minutes once DaJuan Coleman was injured, but his rebounds got a lift, too. During non-conference games, Christmas averaged 3.6 per game. In conference play, he's averaging 5.6. That's a huge difference in both stats to be explained away by an increase in time on the floor. It's making me wonder whether Rak just feels better playing the 5, than the 4.

C.J. Fair Turnovers

Non-conference: 3.2
Conference: 1.7

There hasn't been much griping about C.J.'s performance in this regard lately, and that's for good reason. Many who watched in the beginning of the season noted that the increase in turnovers was likely because he was trying to force too much. Sure, he's had a larger role as a senior, but this massive decrease in turnovers is proof that he just needed to settle in.

Tyler Ennis FG%

Non-conference: 40.7%
Conference: 47.6%

He's one of the two players whose percentage has increased since conference games began (Keita is the other). His number of attempts is about the same, so why such a difference? More of his attempts are 2-pointers these days. Those are higher-percentage shots, so there you go. I mean, come on -- if teams let you drive to the bucket as often as they've been letting Tyler, wouldn't you take it?

Jerami Grant Rebounds

Non-conference: 5.9
Conference: 8.3

I knew there would be a difference, but I didn't expect that much of one. Granted (pun only slightly intended), with field goal percentages down, there are more missed shots to grab. Not that many. When he gets to the boards, he either gets a second-chance shot, or he gets to the line. He's hitting 72.4% of his free throws in conference play as opposed to 65% before, so this is your classic win-win.


Now, it's not all rainbows and butterflies. Negatives do exist. As I alluded to, field goal percentage is trending downward. Average rebounds per game are up slightly, but that's deceiving since more shots are being missed. As for players, Trevor is still inconsistent, C.J.'s free throw percentage has taken a dive, and Tyler's turnovers are up a little. On top of that, none of Michael Gbinije's numbers are really improving. His 3-point percentage is up, but he hasn't played significant enough minutes for this to make an impact.

So what's the takeaway, Lisa? What should we expect from this team going forward? Are we a title contender? Why won't you answer me!?

Why? Because if you're asking those questions, you're ridiculous. Your team is 22-0. This won't go on forever, though, so enjoy it now. Enjoy that these guys keep finding ways to win, regardless of whether they only score 49 points, or if an opponent makes 15 threes. Enjoy watching their chemistry on the court. Enjoy the records they're setting, and enjoy the fact that they keep surprising you. How about that?