With the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (8-5, 1-1) still on a holiday hiatus, it’s time to take a moment and see where the program has excelled and fallen short compared to the rest of the NCAA.
From here on out, Syracuse will play the rest of its schedule against the ACC. This is a great opportunity to see where the Orange can continue to produce while also highlighting some of the limitations of this current roster.
Broadly speaking, the Orange have ranked as an average team on both ends of the court, ranking 131st in the NCAA in points per game (75.3) while allowing opponents to score 69.4 points per contest.
However, if you dive deeper, this team has a clear identity on both ends of the court.
The highs: interior defense and general offense
Let’s start with the positives. Surprisingly, the Orange have been elite on most defensive stats that don’t involve three-point shooting defense.
The most impressive is Syracuse’s interior defense, with the Orange ranking 12th in the nation in blocks per game (5.8) and 53rd in opponent field goal percentage (39.8%).
Give credit where credit is due to Jesse Edwards (3.2 blocks per game), who’s looked great defensively even with his ever-present troubles to stay on the court due to foul trouble. But compared to last year, this year’s team has way more defensive depth. Mounir Hima is averaging 1.4 blocks per game, and coach Boeheim’s wing rotation of Benny Williams, Maliq Brown, Chris Bell, and company have done a solid job at locking down the interior when the 2-3 zone is at its best.
Given the ACC’s combination of high-profile bigs and athletic guards, it’s good to see that Syracuse can at least force opponents into difficult shots along the interior.
Statistically, it’s actually shocking how good Syracuse’s defense looks compared to its conference peers. The Orange rank first in the ACC in opponent field goal percentage despite giving up the third-most attempts in the conference. Even on the turnover front, Syracuse has forced the fourth-most turnovers in the ACC, with Edwards and Judah Mintz combining to average 3.5 steals per game.
And on offense, it hasn’t been totally pretty, but the team has been solid for the most part. The Orange have fared decently at getting semi-efficient shot creation (114th in field goal percentage) and taking advantage of fastbreak opportunities.
The lows: three-point shooting and bench scoring
The three-point defense is not great (translation: jaw-droppingly bad). This isn’t a typo, but the Orange have given up the second-most threes in the entire NCAA (399 attempts in 13 games). For context, only Coppin State (413) is giving up more threes to opponents, and that’s across 15 (not 13) games. On average, Syracuse allows opponents to take nearly 31 threes per game. That’s been a recurring problem before. Remember the game versus Colgate earlier this season?
Percentage-wise, Syracuse allows opponents to shoot 32.6% from three, a few percentage points lower than the usual NCAA average of 34%-36% you typically see on a year-to-year basis. For context, nine teams in the ACC are shooting above that 32.6% marker. If the 2-3 zone doesn’t hold up along the perimeter, there could be some trouble for the Orange’s broader defense.
However, it’s been the offense that has needed the most work. Syracuse ranks a porous 301st (tied with the disastrous 2-13 Louisville Cardinals) in bench points per game (15.4). Part of that is on coach Boeheim’s tendency to play a limited rotation, but the other half is the lack of reliable offensive pop outside of the Orange’s starters.
And on its own end, Syracuse hasn’t shot the ball well, making just 32.8% of its own attempts from behind the line (233rd in the NCAA).
Moving forward, expect Syracuse to live and die with opponent outside shooting while hoping it can get more production from the supporting cast as conference play ramps up.