Following Syracuse's win over Texas A&M in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, the Orange were riding high. They had just recorded back-to-back wins over Top-25 teams, and were sitting pretty at 6-0 to start the season. Syracuse would be ranked the No. 14-best team in the country in the following AP Poll.
However, despite Syracuse's hot start, the season has not gone according to plan. Since that impressive 6-0 start, the Orange have gone a mediocre 13-11 and are currently projected to make the tournament as a 9-seed. While Syracuse has struggled since the opening month, it has not been at the fault of their defense (for the most part).
Despite owning an uninspiring 19-11 record, the Orange still boast one of the ACC's top defenses, statistically, thanks to their ferocious 2-3 zone. Here's how Syracuse's defensive statistics break down.
Opponent's Three-Point Percentage
While one of the main weaknesses of playing a 2-3 zone is that it can typically leave you vulnerable against strong three-point shooting teams, the Orange have actually been one of the most dominating teams in the country – not just the ACC – in terms of three-point defense.
Syracuse is currently holding opponents to a suffocating 30.2 percent from behind the arc. That mark is not only the best in the ACC, but it is also tied for the 10th-lowest three-point percentage in all of D-1 men's basketball. Louisville has the next-lowest opponent's three-point percentage in the ACC, at 31.9.
Opponent's Field Goal Percentage
Although it may not be as impressive as their three-point shooting defense, Syracuse is currently limiting opponents to just 40.9 percent from the field–second-best in the ACC. The Orange trail Louisville by just 2.2 percent. Overall, Syracuse ranks 59th nationally in terms of opponent's field goal shooting. A key reason as to why Syracuse's opponent's field goal percentage is much higher than their three-point shooting percentage is due to the fact the Orange have struggled at defending big men in the paint this season–including giving up a season-high 50 points in the paint in a blowout loss to Louisville.
Unlike previous seasons, Syracuse doesn't have a consistent big man to count on when it comers to interior defense. DaJuan Coleman has been inconsistent and frequently finds himself in foul trouble, and while Tyler Roberson may lead Syracuse in rebounds with 8.4 he has had several defensive lapses and has drawn the ire of Orange coach Jim Boeheim.
In addition to limiting opponent's shooting percentage, Syracuse also forces plenty of turnovers. The Orange record an ACC-best 8.03 steals per game, tied for 23rd in the nation. Furthermore, Syracuse's steals-to-turnovers ratio is even more impressive at 0.67–which again leads the ACC, and is tied for the 16th-best mark in the nation.
Syracuse is led by guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, who are both ranked within the top-three of the ACC in terms of steals per game. Gbinije leads the conference with 2.10, and Cooney ranks third with 1.57. While Syracuse has two players within the top-three in terms of steals per game, no other ACC team has two players within the top-10.