Syracuse takes on rival Georgetown for the 92nd time on Saturday. The Hoyas beat the Orange last season in their first matchup since Syracuse left the Big East.
This season, the game’s importance to SU goes beyond the rivalry. It has the chance to be the Orange’s best non-conference victory.
Although Georgetown (6-4) suffered an early season upset at the hands of Arkansas St., each of its other three losses came against a KenPom top-75 team. Thanks in part to a victory over then-top-25 Oregon, Georgetown comes into the matchup ranked No. 57 in the KenPom, which is 22 spots higher than UConn.
Here are two things to watch for, with another two factors to follow on Friday:
A clash of paces
Syracuse-Georgetown games have the reputation of good old-fashioned Big East slugfests—and with good reason. Last season, the matchup included 66 possessions, 3 below the D-1 average, even though the final score was in the 70s. Three games between the teams in 2013 averaged 59 possessions, seven below the D-1 average that season.
But this season Georgetown is playing offense faster than all but 25 teams in the country, with an average possession lasting just 15.2 seconds. This is more than two seconds faster than the Hoyas played last season and almost a second faster than this year’s Orange.
Syracuse, on the other hand, has caused its opponents to take an unusually long time on offense. In fact, SU’s average of 19.4 seconds per possession on defense is the longest in the country this year. This is almost always the case due to the zone, but it is even more exaggerated this season.
Thus, in a clash of styles, it will be interesting to see if the Hoyas maintain their speedy pace against the Orange zone. Coach Boeheim has expressed desire throughout the season for his team to play faster and generate more fast breaks. If Georgetown rushes its possessions against the zone, there will be ample opportunities for Syracuse to run back the other way.
Defensive closeouts on Rodney Pryor
Pryor is Georgetown’s best shooter. He’s made almost as many 3’s (32) as the rest of the team combined while shooting a blistering 52.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Syracuse has struggled at times to identify and close out 3-point shooters this season. Boston University’s Cedric Hankerson was only the most recent example when he shot 10-20 in defeat against the Orange last weekend. Syracuse also allowed an opposing marksman to knock down six 3’s in a victory over North Florida and a loss to Wisconsin.
Despite these hot shooters, SU opponents are still only shooting 27.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is the 15th best in the country and would be the best mark in the last 15 years for a Boeheim team. Which Syracuse perimeter defense shows up on Saturday may determine the outcome.