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If Syracuse loses to Wisconsin, just blame the basketballs

No, not just a joke. There’s actual research to back this up.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange travel to Madison, Wisc. to take on the Wisconsin Badgers this evening. And when they do, they’ll face a host of different challenges related to being on the road, playing at the Kohl Center and... using unfamiliar basketballs.

As the Daily Orange’s Paul Schwedelson points out today, Wisconsin is the only Power Five program to use Sterling-branded basketballs. Syracuse, like a bunch of other schools, uses Nike, while plenty more use balls manufactured by Spalding, Under Armour, Wilson and Adidas.

Apparently the switch has caused some issues in the past.

According to research from Syracuse University sport management professor Rodney Paul, going specifically from a Nike ball to another manufacturers’ does have a negative impact on the Nike school.

You should read the article over at the D.O. for the graphics that accompany the piece, but the takeaway is that Nike schools’ shooting percentages did dip when using other balls. In Paul’s data set, Nike schools’ field goal percentage dropped 3.8 points when using Sterling basketballs. It was even worse when changing to some of the other major manufacturers. There’s a 6.7-percent decrease from Nike to Spalding, 7-percent decrease from Nike to Under Armour and a 7.4-percent drop from Nike to Adidas. SU used an Adidas ball in Saturday’s loss to South Carolina in Brooklyn.

Schwedelson and Paul add the caveat that while the percentage drop is significant, the sample size may not be for all of the manufacturers. Specifically in the case of Sterling (the ball in question for Tuesday night), there just haven’t been enough Nike schools coming to Kohl Center in recent years.


So if you were looking for an excuse should the worst happen vs. the Badgers, there’s your reason. It’s the basketball’s fault. Or Nike’s. Or Sterling’s.