For the first time in three weeks, this column comes following a week that saw Syracuse win a game. The Orange actually won two contests, topping Boston College on Wednesday and Wake Forest on Saturday.
With that in mind, we'll focus on a few positive trends this week, beginning with the Orange's defense.
Defense trending up
After last week's games, Syracuse's defensive numbers have improved pretty considerably. It makes sense, given that the Orange held Boston College to 40 points on 31.9% shooting before holding Wake Forest to 55 points on 32.6% shooting.
SU now ranks 39th in the country in kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which estimates the points a team would allow against an average Division I offense. The Orange have a rating of 95.3.
Additionally, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 29% from 3-point range, which ranks 11th in college basketball. The Orange are also coming away with steals on 13.3% of possessions, which ranks third nationally, and blocking shots on 13.8% of possessions, which ranks 26th.
Syracuse is also still forcing teams deep into the shot clock. Opponents take an average of 19.4 seconds per possession to get a shot off against SU, which is the longest mark against any team in the country. Better yet, the Orange's defense gets better as possessions get longer. Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 51.9 in the first 10 seconds of possessions, compared to 44.6 in non-transition offense and 38.1 when the shot clock is at five seconds or less.
Of course, all of this could soon change. Syracuse's next three opponents — Duke, Virginia and Notre Dame — rank third, fifth and first, respectively, in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Cooney: Playing defense, but not fouling
Trevor Cooney, generally considered to be a dependable defender in the 2-3 zone, has been a large contributor to Syracuse's top-notch perimeter defense.
Perhaps most impressive about his individual performance: he isn't fouling players. Per 40 minutes, he's committing just 1.5 fouls. For comparison, fellow guard Michael Gbinije — who, to be fair, is 35th in the country in steal percentage — is committing 2.9 fouls per 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Franklin Howard is committing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes and Kaleb Joseph is committing 3.5.
Coleman is making his presence felt
In Syracuse's last three games, Dajuan Coleman has blocked a total of four shots while playing only 22.7 minutes per game. He's now blocking shots on 5.7% of possessions, which ranks 156th among all Division I players.
As those numbers indicate, the center has been making his presence felt in the middle of the 2-3 zone, something that has helped improve the Orange's low post defense.
That was evident on Saturday, when Devin Thomas, one of the ACC's top inside presences, went just 1-of-3 from the field in the 15 minutes that Coleman was on the court.
Syracuse loves shooting from the right side
This season, Syracuse has shot far better from the right side of the court than the left. The Orange are shooting 39% from the right wing 3-point area, compared to 31% from the left wing, according to Shot Analytics.
To explain that, look no further than Gbinije and Malachi Richardson. Gbinije is shooting 42% from the right wing and just 30% from the left wing, while Richardson is shooting 42% from the right and 26% from the left.
After last week's game, the Orange have jumped up to No. 43 in kenpom.com's rankings. Previously, they were ranked in the high 70s.
The site also projects Syracuse will win seven more ACC games — including home contests against Notre Dame, Florida State and Pittsburgh. That would put SU at 9-9 in the conference.