Even with the recent skid, we’ve still got plenty of time between now and the end of the season for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (14-8, 5-6).
February marks a critical stretch for the Orange, who have lost three of their last four games (which included a 29-point defeat to Wake Forest) yet still remain on the outer fringe of bracketology conversations. As the saying goes: it ain’t over until it’s over.
After Wednesday night’s home game versus Louisville, just eight regular season games stand in the way of the ACC Tournament. With plenty of season left to go, let’s take a look at the Orange’s stats and resume before the important month of hoops.
On the court, Syracuse’s defense still revolves primarily around forcing turnovers and creating chaos along the perimeter. The Orange are allowing teams to shoot only 32% from three (fifth-best in the ACC) while forcing the second-most steals and opponent turnovers per game in the conference. That’s continued to allow Syracuse to get out in transition, create those high-impact plays and provide the Orange their best, statistically most advantageous chance to score.
The two main problems coach Adrian Autry will need to solve sooner rather than later — is there any chance to establish some interior presence on defense and how can the Orange’s half-court offense get a spark when it goes completely ice cold?
Starting with the defense, Syracuse is allowing the fourth-most points per game in the ACC even with the great perimeter numbers. The lack of a dominant center and playing some guys (namely Maliq Brown and Justin Taylor) out of their usual position has obviously made things difficult, but nonetheless this remains an issue. The Orange are giving up the third-highest field goal percentage to opposing offense and handing opponents the most rebounds per game in the ACC. Syracuse does rank 36th in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom, which is third-best in the ACC.
On offense, spacing has been hard to come by — out of the main rotation players, only Chris Bell is shooting at 36% from three across the whole season. J.J. Starling has caught fire primarily against conference opponents (39% on 56 attempts), but you can’t say the same for anyone else. Justin Taylor is shooting in the mid-20s, Maliq Brown can score mainly just in the paint area and Mintz is shooting 39% versus the ACC.
Per KenPom, Syracuse ranks 156th in adjusted offensive efficiency which is 13th in the ACC.
For those still holding onto hope that the Orange can sneak into the NCAA Tournament, there’s luckily (and somehow) still a case to be made.
Syracuse has dealt with the 12th-hardest strength of schedule per KenPom, which ranks first out of anyone else in the ACC. Six of Syracuse’s last nine games are against Q1 and Q2 opponents, meaning there will still be plenty of games with stakes throughout the rest of February. That includes a home-and-home versus Clemson (Q1 on the road, Q2 at home), Georgia Tech and NC State on the road (both Q2), and #3 North Carolina (Q1) and Virginia Tech (Q2) at home.
After the loss to Wake Forest, Syracuse is currently 1-6 versus Q1 opponents and 4-7 combined against Q1 and Q2 teams. The Orange’s best wins include the road win over Pittsburgh (Q1), home wins versus Miami and Pitt (Q2) and the neutral-site victory over Oregon (Q2).
Per recent bracketology updates released by ESPN and CBS Sports, roughly four ACC teams are expected to make the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina and Duke are clearly there, Virginia has caught fire recently and will earn itself a spot and Clemson just beat the #3 Tar Heels on Tuesday night. After that, there still remains a gigantic middle of the pack in the conference standings.
Against all odds, one could still make a case that Syracuse should still hold out hope for just a little bit longer.