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Syracuse women’s basketball: Coach Legette-Jack’s scheme by the numbers

The former Buffalo Bulls coach brings a lot to the table for the Orange.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

For the Syracuse Orange, no one was a bigger addition to the women’s basketball team than new head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

After a gap year under former Acting Head Coach Vonn Reed, Legette-Jack earned the Orange’s coaching gig in March and began the process of rebuilding what has historically been a successful Syracuse women’s basketball program in recent memory.

Entering this season the Orange will have tons of questions to answer, ranging from how new players will fit with the team’s current core to how the ‘Cuse will fare against an always competitive ACC. Regardless of how Syracuse fares on the court on paper, the biggest litmus test for the upcoming women’s season will be seeing if coach Legette-Jack’s success with the Buffalo Bulls will translate in a tougher, more talented conference.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Legette-Jack’s biggest appeal is her lengthy head coaching experience and her ability to establish a professional culture within the team. In a sense, she’s bringing back what the Orange lacked this past season: structure, stability, and accountability. The hope is there for coach Legette-Jack to turn the Orange back around, and after a season from hell for Syracuse in 2022, hope is a great starting point for this iteration of the women’s basketball team.

Given her recent success in Buffalo and her appeal as a legitimate voice in the locker room, the only thing missing is seeing how Coach Legette-Jack’s scheme will translate to the hardwood.

Let’s do the honors and break it down by the numbers.

Legette-Jack’s tenure in Buffalo

Coach Legette-Jack will make her debut as the Orange’s new head coach after a successful tenure with the Bulls. The sample size is clearly there. After a shaky coaching run with the Indiana Hoosiers, Legette-Jack turned things around and transformed Buffalo into one of the best women’s collegiate mid-major basketball programs in the country:

Coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s Coaching Resume (2007-2022)

Coach Legette-Jack's Resume # of Seasons W-L Record Conference W-L Record Conference Top-3 Finish Top-Half Conference Finish NCAA Tournament Appearances
Coach Legette-Jack's Resume # of Seasons W-L Record Conference W-L Record Conference Top-3 Finish Top-Half Conference Finish NCAA Tournament Appearances
Indiana Hoosiers (2007-2012) 6 87-100 39-64 0 2 0
Buffalo Bulls (2013-2022) 10 201-114 111-68 8 10 4
Coach Legette-Jack hasn’t had a losing season since her first year with the Bulls in 2012-2013. Dominic Chiappone

On paper, coach Legette-Jack brings exactly what the Orange were looking for last season, which was mainly competitive success against in-conference opponents and the ability to maximize whatever talent is on the roster.

There’s plenty of distance between her Indiana tenure and her time with Buffalo, so that should minimize any concerns about the sample size being too much of an outlier. Given the Bulls’ success spans across a decade worth of women’s basketball, there’s a tremendous appeal that this will translate pretty seamlessly, even in a more competitive ACC.

The best aspect of Legette-Jack’s coaching resume is that the sample size of success has both longevity and has been recent. Since 2016, the Bulls finished with five seasons above 20 wins and three seasons above 23 wins.

At Buffalo, Legette-Jack guided the Bulls to four NCAA tournament appearances, including a Sweet Sixteen bid in the 2017-2018 season. Even in “down” years, the Bulls still finished several games above .500 and never ranked once in the bottom half in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. Under Legette-Jack, Buffalo had only one season (2015-2016) with more losses than wins against conference opponents.

If you’re a fan of the Orange, you have to feel nothing but pure happiness that the team was able to land the former ‘Cuse alum.

The Bulls in 2021-2022

Let’s dive deeper and take a look at what the Orange saw in Legette-Jack when they made the hire.

Coach Legette-Jack’s most recent season was her 2021-2022 campaign with the Bulls. This past season ranks as Legette-Jack’s second or third-best single-season coaching run in her career.

Last year, the Bulls finished 25-8 on the season and 16-4 against conference opponents, earning the runner-up spot in the MAC. Compared to the rest of the conference, Buffalo was dominant on both sides of the court. The Bulls finished last season as the best-scoring offense and 4th-best defense, with a margin of victory of 9.2 points per game.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs UConn David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On offense, the Bulls focused on attacking the basket, crashing the glass, and prioritizing putting up points inside the three-point line. Last season, Buffalo finished first in field goal attempts, 5th in field goal percentage, 2nd in free throw attempts, and 3rd in free throw percentage. Despite not taking too many threes (4th-lowest in the conference), Buffalo still finished 4th in three-point percentage. Heading into this season, expect the Orange to maintain what was one of the best-scoring offenses in the ACC in 2022.

By far and away, the Orange struck gold with coach Legette-Jack brings on the defensive end.

In 2021-2022, the Bulls statistically ranked among the best defenses in the MAC. Buffalo finished 5th in points allowed per game, 2nd in opponent field goal percentage, 3rd in forced turnovers, first in opponent three-point percentage, first in blocks per game, and second in steals per game.

Last season, the Orange gave up the most points in the ACC (74.8 PPG in 2022), which was 4.1 points more than the second-worst defense in the conference (Clemson). On the glass, Syracuse finished last in rebounding, third-worst in defensive rebounding, and first in opponent rebounds.

The Syracuse women’s basketball team lacked size, toughness, and effort on defense. Opponents dominated the Orange down low. Under coach Legette-Jack’s watch, ‘Cuse appears to at least improve from the bottom of the conference to, at a bare minimum, middle of the pack on defense.

Legette-Jack with the ‘Cuse

The best part about coach Legette-Jack is that she will be able to maintain Syracuse’s strengths while also addressing the team’s biggest weaknesses from last season.

When you combine the on-the-court success with her vast coaching experience and ability to establish a dynamic team culture, Legette-Jack will bring numerous benefits and practically no question marks.

The biggest test, of course, is to see if Legette-Jack can perform the same magic she did in Buffalo in Syracuse. The ACC is far superior to the MAC, and again, there are still tons of question marks left to be solved about the rotation and player fit within the roster.

But the Orange landed a diamond in the rough by hiring coach Legette-Jack. Last season couldn’t have been a worse team situation. Beginning this season, the women’s basketball team embraces a new chapter in its pretty successful history.

As the new season approaches, there are tons of uncertainties about the team. Coach Legette-Jack won’t be one of them.