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Syracuse men’s basketball is better in transition, but can they pick up the pace in ACC play?

For 2020 Syracuse should resolve to run more often

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

Before the Syracuse Orange traveled to Georgia Tech I took a look inside the offensive numbers to look at ways the Orange could improve the offense. A month later has shown that Syracuse is hitting more of their shots as they have moved all the way up to being rated an excellent offense according to the Synergy Sports numbers. That offensive success hasn’t translated to wins but if the Orange are going to make a push for a NCAA bid it’s going to need to outscore opponents.

What hasn’t changed in the last month is that this Syracuse team is most effective in transition. Despite what Jim Boeheim said after last night’s loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies, the numbers show this is where Syracuse has done the best so far this season. In transition situations the Orange are in the top 10% of the country scoring 1.149 points per possession. Leading the way is Eljah Hughes who ranks in the top 5% in the country in transition. Hughes has 75 points in 52 possessions and is shooting just under 63% in these situations. Digging even further into the stats shows that when Elijah gets on the right wing in transition he’s producing over two points per possession. Clearly that’s his “spot” on the floor and Syracuse might consider putting Hughes on that side of the floor on defense so he can be in a better position to score when they get the ball.

He’s not the only Syracuse player to have success in transition as Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim and Marek Dolezaj are all more effective when the Orange are pushing the ball. With a team that is willing to share the ball it makes sense that the Orange would thrive when they can attack an unsettled defense. Syracuse struggles to break down defenders in halfcourt sets but when they force the defense to scramble it makes it easier to get better shots.

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

It’s important that Syracuse looks to run because of what lies between them and any chance of a NCAA Tournament berth. Right now six ACC teams rank in the Top 50 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive ratings (Notrh Carolina sits at 53rd). These teams are going to tough to break down in halfcourt sets and as good as Hughes has been he will be drawing even more attention in ACC play.

The problem is how does Syracuse get more transition opportunities in ACC play? The Orange are still struggling to rebound and injuries have depleted the bench depth making it unlikely Syracuse will press. It’s going to be critical for the Orange to do a better job limiting the offensive rebounds they concede and to push the ball when the defense is able to force turnovers.

As of last week, Syracuse was 244th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo which is pretty much in line with how Jim Boeheim has wanted to play the last few seasons. However the offensive numbers showing that this year’s squad is far better on that end of the floor, so it’s probably a good New Year’s resolution for the Orange to figure out ways to get out and run more often. The hard part is going to be getting in position to do that as frequently as they’ll need the next two months.