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Syracuse Basketball: Fun With Advanced Statistics (Week 3)

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Today we delve into more plus-minus numbers, how Trevor Cooney can stop being a detriment to the Orange and more.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If you were expecting to read this column yesterday, my apologies for not having it ready. With Syracuse playing on Sunday, some of the websites I draw from weren't updated in time for me to put a worthy piece together.

Today, though, we'll delve into more plus-minus numbers, how Trevor Cooney can stop being a detriment to the Orange and more. Read below for all things SU statistics.

Syracuse's best lineup is still its best lineup, but is Mike Hopkins using it enough?

The lineup consisting of Michael Gbinije, Cooney, Malachi Richardson, Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon has consistently been the Orange's go-to move this season. Not only that, but it's also been Syracuse's most effective lineup, and that was again the case this past week.

That lineup went plus-10 in the Orange's 78-51 win over Colgate, a better mark than any other lineup. In fairness, that can at least be partially chalked up to that lineup playing more minutes than any other lineup.

What's more telling, though, is how the lineup performed Sunday against St. John's. Even in a 12-point loss, it finished plus-11 against the Red Storm. And that begs the question: Even with Richardson struggling, should that lineup have played more than it did? Probably.

It's very difficult to quantify the performance of coaches, but it's at least worth pointing out that this happened under head coach designate Mike Hopkins' watch. When Jim Boeheim was coaching this season, he rode the lineup to wins over Connecticut and Texas A&M when the Orange might have otherwise lost. The only time he went away from it was during SU's loss to Wisconsin earlier this month. But that decision was seemingly justified, as the lineup finished minus-7 in that game.

The Orange have been good at blocking shots, but it hasn't always mattered.

According to kenpom.com, Syracuse is blocking 12.6% of opponents' 2-point jumpers, which ranks the Orange 54th among all Division I teams. But two of SU's best shot blockers — Lydon and Dajuan Coleman — haven't been particularly efficient shot blockers.

Lydon has blocked 21 shots this season, which puts him third among all players in the ACC. But here's the caveat: his blocks aren't exactly affecting games. According to Hoop-Math, opposing offenses have gotten the ball back following 66.7% of Lydon's blocks.

Coleman has blocked seven shots in relatively limited minutes, good for 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes. However, the opposing team has gotten the ball back on five of those blocks.

Obviously, blocks become almost meaningless if the defense doesn't come away with possession as a result. These are small sample sizes, particularly in Coleman's case, but it's still something to keep an eye on.

Lydon probably isn't shooting enough.

By any account, Tyler Lydon has been supremely efficient when he's shot the ball this season. He's effectively shooting 61.5% and he's making 50% of his 3s. Take a look at his shot chart, courtesy of Shot Analytics, and you'll see how good he's been from outside the paint:

But here's the catch: that's a very low volume of shots. So far this season, Lydon has attempted just 65 shots from the field. That's 56 fewer attempts than Cooney and 42 fewer than Richardson. Cooney and Richardson have also attempted 45 and 44 more 3-pointers, respectively, than Lydon has this season.

This wouldn't be all that notable if not for the fact that Cooney and Richardson have been far less efficient than Lydon has been this season. Cooney is effectively shooting 43.4% from the field and making only 31.5% of his 3s, while Richardson is making just 27.8% of his 3s and effectively shooting only 43.0% from the field.

Opposing teams aren't doing anything particularly special to defend Lydon. If anything, he's had more matchup advantages this season than any SU player has, which makes his low shot volume so puzzling. Against St. John's, he took only two 3-pointers, making one.

The Orange's plan this season is to beat teams with the 3. To do that more often than they have been recently, they'll likely need to get Lydon more looks.

Cooney has been hurting the Orange. Here's how he can change that.

It's no secret that, offensively, Trevor Cooney has hurt Syracuse this season. As mentioned above, he's struggled badly from beyond the arc, where he takes most of his shots.

Cooney has been particularly bad in transition, and he also hasn't shot well late in the shot clock. According to Hoop-Math, he's taken 19 of his 73 attempts from 3 in transition, but he's made just three of those shots. Meanwhile, in the last five seconds of the shot clock, defined as "late offense," he's only 5-of-16 from 3. But in non-transition, non-late offense situations, he's shooting 39.4% from beyond the arc.

There would seem to be an explanation for this: late in the shot clock and in transition, his 3-pointers more often come off the dribble. But in those non-transition, non-late offense situations, Cooney is usually running off screens and taking catch-and-shoot 3s, which are easier to make for a spot-up shooter like him.

In transition, Cooney would be smart to focus on being more of a distributor rather than looking for his shot. So far this season, 17 of his 33 assists have come in transition, an impressive 51.5% rate that would increase if he simply looked to pass more.

There isn't a similar alternative to what Cooney's role should be in late offense, so the simple solution would be for him to not have the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down.

If Cooney can recognize these weaknesses and adjust accordingly, it would make him a much more effective player, which would in turn make Syracuse an equally more effective team.