Three years ago, the Syracuse basketball team stumbled through a rough season, backing a trip to the Final Four with a relatively brief cameo in the NIT. Their appearance in the lesser of the two major college basketball tournaments followed Jim Boeheim’s public comments about how the ACC Tournament should no longer play in Greensboro because there was “no value added” in playing there when it could be in a much more metropolitan locale.
In a “twist of fate”, the Orange ended up welcoming UNC-Greensboro to the Carrier Dome for the first round of the NIT. The two squads ended up playing a day later than originally scheduled due to a snowstorm and SU advanced, 90-77, the game living on only in the memories of fans as a sort of punch line.
Well, what’s not so funny now is the 2019-2020 Syracuse team’s similarities to their counterparts from three years prior. The college basketball consensus picks point towards a similar finish too.
On the heels of their 88-87 loss on Saturday to Notre Dame, SU currently stands at #62 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings with rankings of #32 in adjusted offensive efficiency and #106 in adjusted defensive deficiency. Their 2016-2017 brethren wrapped that season #55 overall, #30 on offense, and #119 on defense.
With 17 ACC games remaining, it is not hard to envision this group sliding even more, both overall and on defense.
Saturday’s game evolved into a shootout, as the Irish hung 51 points after halftime, outdoing Syracuse’s 47. Those 51 points came as Notre Dame got pretty much anything they wanted on offense, shooting over 47 percent overall and 53 percent from long range in the second half. The Irish also corralled a dozen offensive rebounds as they snared nine more boards after the break.
Three years ago, the Orange allowed their opponents to shoot 43 percent overall and 34.2 percent from long range. It’s early and the three-point line has been pushed out this past offseason, but the current SU defense is getting tuned up by major conference foes. In seven games against higher level competition, the Orange are giving up 42.8 percent shooting overall and 37.0 percent from long range, despite the pushed-out arc. With 17 major conference games remaining, the next two months look grim.
Also disturbing is how soundly Syracuse gets hammered on the glass. The only major conference opponent the Orange have beaten on the boards is Georgia Tech, outrebounding the Yellow Jackets by ten. In the other six games, they are securing just under 42 percent of the available rebounds. That would be third-worst in all of Division I and their 49.2 percent overall mark is 248th in the country.
The 2016-2017 team’s rebounding percentage? 49.3 percent, good for 240th in the country.
In case you had forgotten, that team also had a short bench and leaned into the volatility of three-point shooting in an effort to sneak out wins. Over 40 percent of their field goal attempts were from long range as Andrew White III, Tyus Battle, John Gillon, and Tyler Lydon each shot at least 124 threes. It made sense, as each hit at least 36.6 percent of the time from deep individually. The group shot 275-for-695 from three, good for a 39.6 percent mark.
Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard III, and Elijah Hughes this season? 128-for-329 for a 38.9 percent mark. Girard has lagged behind due to a slow start (he has made 36 percent from long range in the last six outings), but they are averaging 9.1 threes on 23.5 attempts. The quartet of three years past? 8.1 threes on 20.4 attempts. Once again, with a porous defense, Jim Boeheim is leaning into the upside of three-point shooting.
With defensive and rebounding issues riddling the team, the Orange are returning to a strategy they tried recently. Unfortunately, chances are this Syracuse team will not be adding value anywhere in the postseason.