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Syracuse basketball: Orange 68th in preseason KenPom rankings

A spot above a really nice ranking.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Ken Pomeroy College Basketball preseason rankings dropped this week and eight of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 15 schools sit in the top 50. None of them are the Syracuse Orange.

The rankings are determined by one of those fancy advanced statistics, adjusted efficiency margin. It’s the difference between adjusted offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions adjusted for opponent) and adjusted defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100, again adjusted for opponent).

Sorry for all the math, I won’t mention the historic trends, pace adjustments (possession numbers), recruit ratings and other factors that likely go into this as well (Pomeroy’s stats are proprietary so how they’re actually calculated is secret).

As Pomeroy states on his site, this isn’t a level of how “good” teams are like AP rankings, but rather a way “to show how strong a team would be if it played tonight.” Home court and other factors are standardized.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange boast a +10.53 rating, sandwiching them below Temple but above Connecticut, who slides in nicely at 69th in the country.

Syracuse’s rating is boosted by their offense, 58th at 107.8, which makes up for their 82nd-ranked 97.2 defensive rating.

Later, luck comes into play, determined by strength of schedule and home/road factors, but it’s clear that the analytics don’t favor Syracuse’s roster early in the season, especially relative to the conference.

Jim Boeheim made it clear in his opening remarks this season that early-season play hurt his team last year, it went on a 4-5 swoon through Nov. that included at 33-point loss to St. John’s in the Dome. Give or take if it was worse than losing to Boston College, it was all before playing a single ACC game.

With another powerful conference predicted preseason (Duke #6 in KenPom), that start becomes even more important.

There’s also room for optimism, with these ratings only relying on college statistics of returning players like Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu. They’re certainly part of the team’s core in 2017-18, but the contributions of Matthew Moyer, Howard Washington, Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj at this level have yet to be included.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It’s also important to remember that offensive and defensive ratings are inherently influenced by players like John Gillon, Andrew White III, Tyler Roberson, Tyler Lydon and the others who departed after last season and shared the court with players set to return. Playing alongside them, Howard’s defensive rating was 104, Battle’s was 109 last season. In a 2-3 zone more than man-to-man, everybody’s contributions on defense matters to the net rating.

Everything has to be taken in context with these stats, but it does make it clear that the competition will yield an uphill battle for Syracuse in the conference. Before traveling to Duke in February, the Orange have to establish groundwork in games against Maryland, Kansas and Connecticut prior to New Year’s Day.

It’s easy to forget now that Syracuse knocked off Duke, Florida State and Virginia in 2016-17. Three court-stormings, but no NCAA Tournament to show for it. It’s all about the start.