Based on the last six paragraphs of the three-part Syracuse basketball preview that wrapped up on this very website Wednesday, I am not surprised by the events that transpired that night when the Orange faced Virginia.
Inexperienced guards, three-point shooting volatility, and defensive issues all reared their heads at the Dome. Starting point guard Jalen Carey had minimal input in the game after getting lifted in the first half, getting a quick hook after a couple ill-advised shots after halftime and only returning for garbage time, and Brycen Goodine logged eight mostly inconsequential minutes. The team shot just over 17 percent from deep, and allowed the Cavaliers to shoot 66.7 percent on two-point field goals (the most concerning number in the game, given its likely meaningfulness for the season as a whole).
Most of you do not care about that. You just care that they could not score. Which is fair.
But, what if I present you with some numbers?
5, 1, 2, 7, 2, 4, 25, 5.
No, those are not the shooting percentages of individual Syracuse players from Wednesday night’s game. They are where Virginia has ranked at the end of the last eight seasons in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. No, I don’t know what happened in the terrible, horrible, no-good 2012-2013 season where they were only the 25th-best team in the country on defense.
Here are two other sets of numbers:
53, 44, 61, 66, 68, 65, 47, 56
33, 33, 38, 55, 37, 39, 38, 36
Those are, in order from most recent to least recent, the point totals and field goal percentages that SU has mustered in the eight games against Virginia prior to last night, also known as “since the Orange joined the ACC.”
In case you are wondering, yes, “the Malachi Richardson game” is in there. No, it is not the game where SU scored 66 points and shot 55 percent. It is the one before that where they managed to score 68 points and shoot a blistering 37 percent from the field.
The only players who participated in both of the back-to-back 68- and 66-point games (the only SU wins) are Tyler Lydon, Tyler Roberson, and Frank Howard. By the way, I know how you feel about the offensive abilities of latter two. It’s not positive.
In other words, not every Syracuse-Virginia game is the Malachi Richardson game even though it is the one that sticks out the most in your brain.
Also, in other words, the average Syracuse offensive performance against the Cavaliers prior to Wednesday featured 57.5 points on around 38-39 percent shooting. In that time, the Orange have had several NBA first round picks and all-conference players of various positions on their squads and still stunk up the joint against Virginia.
While I know those averages look amazing compared to SU’s actual output a couple nights ago, it should really put into perspective, along with their defensive rankings of recent years, how remarkably good Virginia’s defense is and how much the Orange have traditionally struggled against it, regardless of who was on the roster.
As a result, you should basically discard last night’s result as a measuring stick of what Syracuse will play like until the two teams meet up in a little over nine weeks from now. And then, you should only use it to measure how Syracuse has improved on offense as their young guards have gained experience. Then, throw both games away.
The Orange not likely to see Virginia after then until next season, so don’t make a massive deal about it. Yes, it destroyed the optimism for basketball, especially when looking for an escape from the SU football team’s struggles.
But move on from it. The team is.