In recent weeks, it's been difficult to determine which trends relating to Syracuse were legitimate and which were purely coincidental in a small sample size, since the season was extremely young. But as we surpass the halfway point of the Orange's non-conference schedule, it's becoming easier to know what numbers and statistics to put stock into.
This week, we delve into some of that by looking at more plus-minus numbers, the effectiveness of Tyler Lydon, Syracuse's transition offense and more.
Against Georgetown, Syracuse lineups featuring Tyler Roberson at power forward and Lydon at center were most effective, finishing plus-9 on the day. The often-used lineup of Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson, Roberson and Lydon went plus-5. When Howard was in the game for Richardson, SU went plus-4.
So how did the Orange still manage to lose by seven? Their starting lineup of Gbinije, Cooney, Richardson, Roberson and Coleman finished minus-11. That lineup was minus-2 against Wisconsin and is now minus-6 on the season.
Meanwhile, lineups with Roberson and Lydon manning the frontcourt are now plus-37 this season. Lineups with Lydon and Coleman in the froncourt without Roberson are plus-5.
With that data, it certainly appears that Syracuse is at its best with four-out lineups; lineups featuring four capable shooters and only one big man who doesn't operate outside of the paint. And so far, Roberson — with his ability to rebound, shift his feet on defense and set effective screens — has proven himself to be a better option than Coleman.
The threat of Lydon
Tyler Lydon didn't play especially well against Georgetown or Wisconsin. In those losses, he shot a combined 5-of-13 from the floor and just 1-of-6 from 3.
It was a reminder that Lydon won't always be the offensive player who shot 70% from 3 in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't always be getting significant playing time. He deserves those minutes regardless of how he's playing, because the threat of Lydon is extremely beneficial to the Orange's offensive attack.
So far this season, Syracuse is shooting just 33.7% from the floor when Lydon isn't on the court. When he is playing, the Orange make 43.7% of their attempts.
Lydon has been especially beneficial to Gbinije, who is shooting only 30.8% from 3 when Lydon is on the bench compared to a remarkable 54.8% mark when Lydon plays.
This all ties back to why Syracuse is most effective with four-out lineups. When Lydon is on the bench, that typically means Coleman and Roberson are in the game together, which hurts SU's spacing. And when the spacing lacks, it becomes more difficult for players like Gbinije to generate open shots.
But when Lydon plays either power forward or center, he's able to do what Roberson and Coleman can't by straying away from the paint, creating space and driving lanes that can lead to open shots. And even when he's missed a few consecutive shots, Lydon is a proven enough shooter that teams must respect him when he hangs out on the perimeter. That's where the threat of him comes into play.
Cooney, Richardson hurting transition offense
According to Hoop-Math, Syracuse has three players — Gbinije, Lydon and Roberson — with an effective field goal percentage of 67.9% or better in transition on at least nine attempts this season. Roberson is shooting 77.8% in transition, while Gbinije is effectively shooting 70.4% in that department.
Despite that, Syracuse is effectively shooting only 53.6% in transition, just the 221st-best mark in college basketball.
The Orange are held back by Cooney and Richardson. Cooney is effectively shooting just 34.1% in transition, while Richardson is even worse at 32.4%. Those two players rank second and third, behind only Gbinije, on the Orange in transition field goal attempts.
In Cooney's case, his transition struggles might be fixable by simply playing smarter. After coming up with steals, he often drives straight to the basket — even in 1-on-3 situations — and fails to finish successfully rather than slowing up and trying to set up a higher percentage play.
We'll finish up by examining the shot chart of Malachi Richardson, who's cooled off after a red-hot start to the season.
Richardson has been exceptional beyond the arc from the top of the key and on the right wing. But he's struggled on the left wing and in both corners, where, in total, 35% of his field goal attempts have come from, per Shot Analytics. As a result, his 3-point shooting percentage has suffered drastically, as he's down to 31.4% on the season.