Telling and misleading statistics from Syracuse’s three-game skid

After Seton Hall demolished Syracuse by 22 points Tuesday, sending the Orange on a three-game losing streak, there has been talk of hitting the panic button. Before we do anything too rash, I wanted to take stock of how the team performed statistically to see how worried we should really be.

What follows are statistics that I find either telling, i.e. they are likely to play a significant factor moving forward, or misleading, i.e. they are likely to be aberrations.

Telling: Scoop Jardine’s play. There is not a single statistic that encompasses Jardine’s poor play the last three games; it appears across the board. His turnover percentage, an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays, was 27.2 percent versus Seton Hall and 33.3 percent versus Villanova.

Jardine’s season average was 21.5 percent prior to the losing streak. Jardine’s assist percentage has been down considerably (17.2 percent versus Seton Hall, 21.6 percent versus  Villanova and 26.0 percent versus Pittsburgh) from his average prior to the skid – 35.2 percent.

Syracuse needs Jardine to be a true point guard and run the offense more efficiently if it is going to succeed in the future.

Misleading: Scoop Jardine’s shot selection. In the previous three games, Jardine has actually been taking about the same percentage of shots while he’s on the floor (23.1 percent versus Seton Hall, 23.4 percent versus Villanova and 26.2 percent versus Pittsburgh) as he did in the Orange’s 18 wins – 23.3 percent.

The problem is that they have not been going in. Jardine was shooting 44.1 percent from the field when Syracuse was undefeated. In the past three games he has shot 29 percent. Unless the rest of the team steps up, the Orange needs Jardine to score.

Nonetheless, the team would be better served if Jardine passed up many of the shots he’s taking to get other players involved. For comparison, Jardine’s shot percentage last year was 20.7 percent.

Misleading: Dion Waiters shot 2-12 versus Villanova. Waiters blamed his poor shooting on contact with his arm that was not called a foul. While he may have had a few legitimate grievances, he certainly missed his fair share of open shots.

Regardless, he still played better than his shooting indicated. Waiters finished the game with five assists to just two turnovers. He added two steals and four rebounds, two of which were on the offensive end.

Waiters frequently slashes successfully into the lane. If he can use his driving ability to create shots for his teammates as he did against Villanova, it bodes well for the Orange.

Telling: Dion Waiters shot 0-for-4 against Seton Hall with zero assists in 14 minutes. As well as Waiters played at times against the Wildcats, it was overshadowed by his performance against the Pirates.

After reportedly telling Coach Boeheim to “F*** off” on the bench, rumors swirled that he could face suspension or worse. Those rumors have been put to bed, but the fact remains, Waiters is not hitting shots and he needs to.

He takes 24 percent of the shots when he’s on the floor, the most on the team. Unfortunately, his effective field goal percentage, which is weighted to account for the extra point on three pointers, is only 46.5 percent.

For comparison, Jardine’s is 48.8 percent, Brandon Triche’s is 53.4 percent, Mookie Jones’ is 56.8 percent.

Misleading: Seton Hall, Villanova and Pittsburgh combined for a 50.9 percent field goal percentage in the last three games. Despite the hot opponent shooting that has led to three straight defeats, Syracuse still ranks 18th in the nation with 38.8 percent field goal percentage defense.

Yes, each team exposed weaknesses in the zone, but they also benefited from unusually hot shooting. Seton Hall still averages 41.3 percent from the field overall after its 54.1 percent performance against the Orange.

Syracuse made mistakes on defense in each game, but many of the shots that went down were well-challenged.

Telling: James Southerland combined for just three rebounds in the last three games. He had one rebound against Pittsburgh, none against Villanova and two in his start against Seton Hall.

I’ve written previously that Southerland needs to rebound to stay on the court. His 3-point shooting has simply been too inconsistent to get him minutes on its own.

After the Cincinnati game, Southerland was averaging a season-high 3.3 rebounds per game with a 16.2 defensive rebound percentage and a 4.3 offensive rebound percentage, both estimates of the percentage of available rebounds collected during his time on the court.

Against Pittsburgh, his defensive rebound percentage fell to 3.5 percent and he failed to grab an offensive rebound. Against Seton Hall, his defensive rebound percentage was only slightly better at 6.7 percent and his offensive percentage was 4.2.

Misleading: Rick Jackson had three double-doubles in three games. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson’s double-doubles have been more consistent than just about anything else for the Orange this season.

The misleading part of this statistic is that Jackson grabbed too high a percentage of the team’s rebounds. He needs more help from his teammates. Jackson grabbed 36.2 percent of Syracuse’s rebounds in the last three games. In all other games, he has grabbed 29.8 percent.

Telling: Syracuse did not total more than 15 assists in any of its last three games. The team’s assist rate (the percentage of made field goals that were assisted) was 51.3 percent during this time.

This would put them at 233rd in the country if it held up all season long. Prior to the three-game skid, however, Syracuse had a 62.2 percent assist rate, which was good enough for 23rd in the country.

The Orange’s lack of assists manifested itself in poor shooting. The lack of good shots caused Syracuse to shoot 39.4 percent over the three-game stretch, as opposed to 48.7 percent prior to its first loss.

Misleading: Rick Jackson shot 6-for-16 from the floor against Seton Hall. It was just one of those nights for Jackson. The basket appeared to have a lid on it. It was actually nice to see Jackson get a few more shots, but many of the 16 came from rebounding his own misses.

Jackson takes 19.9 percent of Syracuse’s shots when he’s on the floor. You might think that’s pretty good, but it’s actually lower than Jardine, Triche, Kris Joseph, Waiters and Southerland’s percentages. Jackson is the Orange’s best player, and he shoots 59 percent from the field.

He needs to get the ball more for Syracuse to be successful.

Telling: Brandon Triche has seven assists to five turnovers during the losing streak. This 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio is almost exactly the same as his 1.5 ratio before the first loss. I thought with Jardine sitting out more than usual and Triche handling the bulk of the point-guard duties, we might see this ratio go up, but it was not to be.

Like Waiters, Triche has proven adept at getting into the lane. He needs to do a better job of finding his teammates once he penetrates the defense.

Misleading: Brandon Triche shot 3-for-11 against Seton Hall. Many of those shots were forced in the second half when the Orange was furiously trying to come back.

At times, until Joseph woke up with less than 10 minutes to go, Triche looked like the only Orange player who wanted to run the offense. As mentioned above, he has the highest effective field goal percentage of Boeheim’s three main guards.

Telling: Fab Melo had three rebounds against Seton Hall. It might not sound like much, but Melo has only topped three rebounds in three games this season. Against the Pirates, he grabbed three boards in just four minutes, and he looked good doing it.

The problem was that he was apparently exhausted after those four minutes. If Melo can get in the kind of shape that Boeheim thinks will allow him to play more than 10 minutes per game, he will have a big impact on the defensive end. Boeheim has indicated he is reluctant to keep Jackson at the center position for long stretches as he has done the past three games.

Misleading: C.J. Fair scored 16 points against Pittsburgh. I think Fair has a ton of potential and is one of the best scorers on the Orange right now. He was the only Syracuse player who played more than 10 minutes against the Pirates and shot more than 50 percent from the field (3-for-5).

But as a slashing-style inside player, he needs to get to the free throw line more often and improve his stroke when he gets there. Fair is shooting 54.3 percent from the line and averages just 1.67 three throw attempts per game.

It might be the lefty stroke, but at times he reminds me of a more athletic Josh Pace. To score consistently, however, he needs to be more like Hakim Warrick and less like Pace. Pace shot 55.6 percent from the stripe his senior season while attempting 1.5 free throws per game.

These numbers are eerily similar to Fair’s this year, but compare them to Warrick, who shot 67 percent from the line his senior year on 9.1 attempts per game. Perhaps the most apt comparison is free throw rate, which measures how many foul shots a player takes per field goal attempt.

Warrick’s was 67.0 percent, Pace 18.2 percent and Fair 48.6 percent. Fair is not there yet, but he could get there. He’s only getting 20.6 percent of his points from the line, and it could be a lot more.

Jeff Irvine is a Senior Columnist for The Juice Online.

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Jeff Irvine

About Jeff Irvine

Jeff has covered Massachusetts Minutemen basketball for The Maroon and White and The Daily Hampshire Gazette. He has also written for The Daily Orange. Jeff is an Amherst, Massachusetts native, and graduated from Syracuse University in 2006. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyirvine.
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