Syracuse’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranks in the top 25 in the country for the ninth time in the last 10 years, according to KenPom.com. SU’s defense is slightly worse than last year, but only 1.4 points per 100 possessions worse.
Syracuse has only had four games this year in which its adjusted defensive efficiency was worse than the D1 average of 102.9 points per 100 possessions. And one of those games the Orange beat Boston College.
Put another way, if Syracuse’s offense could have played at the average D1 level in all of its losses, the Orange would be 22-3. That record would likely have the SU in the top 10 in the country.
Not surprisingly, Syracuse’s offensive inconsistency starts with shooting.
The Orange has had 11 games in which its effective field goal percentage was more than 50 percent, all of which were wins. But in SU’s eight losses, the team’s eFG% has not topped 47.5 percent.
SU has relied particularly heavily on the 3-point shot. In fact, SU has attempted a higher percentage of 3s this season (42.8 percent of shots) than in any season that KenPom.com has a record for, going back to 2001. Unfortunately, only 3 teams in that 19-year span have shot a worse percentage from 3 than this year’s squad.
Not surprisingly, SU’s offensive inconsistency starts with the 3-point shot. In games where SU shoots 30 percent or higher from 3, the team is 12-2. Under the 30 percent level, the Orange’s record is 5-6, with two of the victories coming against Morehead State and Eastern Washington.
The good news is that 3-point-heavy offenses inherently involve a high degree of variance. With the strength of SU’s defense, that means if Buddy Boeheim, Elijah Hughes and the Orange’s other shooters get hot, the team could beat any team in the country.
SU will need this high level of variance down the stretch, as it faces a murderer’s row of five Quad 1 games plus a must-win against ACC bottom dweller, Wake Forest.
To make the NCAA Tournament, the Orange will likely need at least 3 wins. KenPom.com gives the SU a 44 percent chance at home against Louisville on Wednesday, and a 77 percent shot on the road against Wake.
If the Orange can pull those two out, it will either need to beat Clemson on the road (33 percent chance), or one of Duke, North Carolina or Virginia. KenPom gives the Orange a 44 percent chance of winning at least one of these three games.
The odds are that SU will only win two of its final six, but if the offense can get consistently to an average level – not even an elite level – then SU has a good shot of stealing 3-4 wins in the home stretch.
That would leave Orange fans relaxed on Selection Sunday for the first time in a while.