Thursday, November 29, 2007

Defense? We don't need no stinkin' defense.

UMass 107, Syracuse 100. At least the Orange are making it more fun to lose this year. There’s no doubt that this year’s team is running the best fast break seen on the Hill since the Sherman Douglas era, and that does bring excitement for the fans. Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn are providing some outstanding offensive efforts to please the fans.

But the Orange sure don’t know how to play defense. According to the Post Standard’s Mike Waters (via Donte Greene), Jim Boeheim believes this team to be “The worst defensive team in Syracuse history”. I’m not sure I would go that far (yet), but clearly it’s not a good defensive team. The only sign of strong defense I’ve seen was a few stretches in the Washington game where Syracuse forced several turnovers. Even in that game, they were inconsistent.

Boeheim does know a little bit about defense. And I hope the players are listening.

"It's been obvious all year to me that we cannot guard whether we're in
man-to-man or zone,'' Boeheim said. "We just cannot defend people. We couldn't
defend St. Joe's or Siena. We couldn't defend Ohio State. We couldn't defend
Washington and we can't defend UMass.'' (Post Standard)

I’m not going to get too focused on Syracuse giving up 77 points a game, as an indicator of how ‘bad’ the defense is. When you play an up tempo offense, you are going to score more points and have more shooting opportunities. The same will be true for your opponent; they will have more shooting opportunities than if you played a slow down deliberate offensive style. I would be concerned on the opposing field goal percentage. Allowing UMass to make 52% of its field goal attempts is not good.

Also, keep in mind the offensive talent of the team is going to be somewhat inflated statistically. If you’re taking more shots a game, you’re going to score more points, regardless of how talented you are. If you average 100 points a game, instead of 80 points a game, your stats are inflated 25%. A player with a 16 ppg average suddenly becomes a 20 ppg player. So let’s try not to get too enamored by the offensive output of our freshmen (yet).

So it’s going to be a disappointing season for the Orange if they don’t solve this problem. They’ll definitely win their share of games. They’ll be able to run some teams right off the court; probably enough of them to get 20+ wins and finish in the top 6-7 in the Big East. But it’ll be a short post season if you can’t stop your opposition.

The UMass game featured four Syracuse players scoring 20 or more points: Eric Devendorf with 23, Arinze Onuaku with a career high 20, Flynn with 20, and Greene with 20. I do not have complete records of all the box scores of games Syracuse has ever played, but I do not think they’ve ever had four players scored 20+ points in one game. That is an impressive feat. The 1965-1966 Syracuse team, led by Dave Bing, averaged almost 100 ppg, and they never accomplished that feat. The Bouie & Louie show never did, even though they had a 144 point effort versus Siena. The group most likely to accomplish that feat would have been Sherman Douglas, Stephen Thompson, Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly, and they did not either. The closest I found was the foursome of Tony Bruin, Erich Santifer, Leo Rautins, and Gene Waldron who all scored 19 points in a 91-85 win over Ohio State on 12/14/1982.

Added bonus last night was a 12 assist effort by Flynn, 10 rebound effort by Onuaku, and 11 rebounds by Paul Harris.

It’s going to be a fun team to watch this year, no doubt about it. Hopefully success will join in with the fun.


Jeff said...

Maybe the defense is this bad because of all the freshmen. Not a lot of people grow up playing the 2-3 so maybe there is a steep learning curve with the zone. In past years we could hide the young guys with more veterans. Then again, in 2003 we had a few freshman in the lineup and I seem to recall our defense being OK.

The scoring is going to be fun to watch but the defense might be just as bad the other way.

Jameson Fleming said...

Last night from the student section stand point we couldn't get anything going because as soon as we scored, UMASS was taking another three and probably hitting it. It's hard to keep a crowd in the game when it's a complete roller coaster ride.