After watching the Fabulous Hat Edition of the Scoop & Kris Show, I got to thinking: who is Syracuse’s go-to player when the game is on the line? The numbers all point to Scoop Jardine.
Over the first 15 games of the season, Rick Jackson has proven himself to be the most important player on the Orange. But in a tight game down the stretch, Kris Joseph and Jardine are more likely to have the ball in their hands due to their play-making ability.
Thus far, there is limited evidence from which to draw a conclusion about Syracuse’s go-to player. Even in the Orange’s nail-biters this season, the team has managed to pull ahead to finish the game at the free throw line in the final minutes. There has been no need for a last-second shot.
As neither Jardine nor Joseph stood out in my mind as having obviously done more at the end of those close games, I decided to examine a broader metric. I scoured game logs looking only at the second half. I split statistics into two categories: (1) when Syracuse was up by seven or more, and (2) when Syracuse was up by six or fewer or behind.
I decided on this split because a seven-point lead makes it a three-possession game, and thus not what I would consider “close.” I only looked at the second halves because I wanted to isolate higher-pressure situations.
One disclaimer before I run down the results: I tabulated these from the game logs on ESPN.com. The logs are by no means perfect, especially when it comes to assists. Also, neither the William & Mary game nor the Georgia Tech game were logged, so those are excluded from the numbers below.
Comparing Joseph and Jardine head-to-head in terms of shot volume, Jardine emerges as the go-to player. While he and Joseph have taken almost exactly the same number of shots when the Orange is up by seven or more in the second half (36 for Joseph and 35 for Jardine), Jardine has taken 43 percent more shots than Joseph in situations in which Syracuse is up by six or fewer or behind (33 shots versus 23).
Not surprisingly, Jardine has scored more total second-half points in close games than Joseph (52 versus 35). But Jardine has also scored a higher percentage of his total second-half points in the clutch. While only 36 percent of Joseph’s second-half points have come with the lead six points or fewer, Jardine has scored 52 percent of his total second-half points in these situations.
Has Jardine fared well asserting himself in these clutch situations? In fact, he has. His field-goal percentage is 52 percent with the lead six points or less, while it is 49 percent with a lead of seven or more. The difference is more pronounced in his 3-point shooting: 36 percent versus 15 percent.
Joseph, on the other hand, shoots worse in close games. His second-half field goal percentage was 50 percent with a lead of seven or more, but only 44 percent with the lead six points or less. His three-point percentage, however, was higher in close-game situations: 33 percent versus 27 percent.
Interestingly, Joseph shoots more 3-pointers when the game is close. Fifty-two percent of his second-half shots in tight games were from behind the arc. When the lead was seven or greater, however, only 31 percent of his shots were 3s. Jardine’s percentage of 3s attempted was roughly the same in both situations (33 percent versus 37 percent).
Has having the ball in his hands and taking more shots down the stretch caused Jardine to turn the ball over more often? This is where my analysis gets a bit dicey because the game logs I looked at do not log every assist and turnover correctly. Nonetheless, a trend emerges, and the answer is no.
Taking the numbers that are logged, which generally exclude more assists than turnovers, Jardine’s assist-to-turnover radio is 1.75 in the second half with the lead six points or fewer, while it is 1.42 with a lead of seven or greater.
Jardine performs similarly better when examining shot volume. His shot-to-turnover ratio is just 2.92 with a large lead but 8.24 in close games. For comparison, Joseph’s 4.00 with a large lead and 3.83 in close games.
Despite Joseph’s recent high-scoring games, Jardine appears to be the guy the Orange wants with the ball as the clock ticks down. We’ll see if that continues when the team gets tested against the top teams of the Big East.
Jeff Irvine is a Senior Columnist for The Juice Online.