This week, over in Grantland, Mark Titus put Syracuse atop his Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings, and for the most part, I agreed with him.
Why was Syracuse No. 1?
“They play good defense.” —No arguments from me.
“They have guys who can get to the rim.” —Check.
“They have a deep bench.” —That, they do.
“They have guys who can shoot.” —Here’s where I disagree.
Titus probably should’ve thrown in some qualifiers here. Such as, “They have guys who have the potential to shoot.” Or, “They have players that have shown at times they can shoot.”
Take a look at every team that Syracuse has played which has a chance of getting to the NCAA tournament, and you’ll see what I mean.
Think back to Syracuse playing at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Tip-Off. The Orange was ice cold in the first halves against Virginia Tech (41.4 percent shooting) and Stanford (34.4) before exploding in the second halves.
Against Florida, the Orange won despite shooting 40.6 percent from the field. The game after that, SU shot 41.5 percent against the Thundering Herd of Marshall.
Even the games that Syracuse does look good on the box score doesn’t mean that SU has necessarily shot the ball well.
SU was a balmy 50 percent (32-for-64) from the field against George Washington in a lopsided 85-50 win. No one is going to argue that shooting 50 percent is a bad offensive night.
But let’s dig a little deeper.
Dion Waiters had a great night against the Colonials. He racked up 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and was the only Orange in double figures.
He also had six steals, part of 18 turnovers the Orange created on the night.
All six of those steals lead to either dunks or layups. I don’t think anyone is going to call someone a good shooter for making dunks or layups, so let’s take those out.
Syracuse is now shooting 26-for-58 from the floor. That’s 44 percent.
Now, let’s look at Rakeem Christmas. He hit both of his shots from the floor. One came on a tip-in. The other on a dunk from a nifty pass from Scoop Jardine.
Now, we’re 24-for-56 from the floor. That’s 42 percent and suddenly, Syracuse isn’t shooting the ball particularly well.
“We haven’t been able to put together what you would call a great offensive game,” Syracuse guard Brandon Triche said. “In the half court we need to get better. But defensively we’re there every game, which helps out in transition.”
Like I said earlier, this isn’t to take away from Syracuse’s shooting potential. The Orange has several potentially good shooters.
There’s Kris Joseph. Triche. Jardine. Waiters. James Southerland.
Every player in that group shoots more than 43 percent from the field, and each has had a great shooting night at one point or another this season.
But no one in that group has been consistently lights out.
Do I think Syracuse deserves to be No. 1 right now? Absolutely, for most of the reasons Titus said.
But I don’t think it’s because they’ve got guys who can shoot.
At least, not yet.
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