How does SU stack up for the ACC Tournament?
How does Syracuse stack up in the ACC Tournament?
After closing out its regular season with one of its most well-rounded wins of the season, the Syracuse men’s basketball team is looking to build on that momentum heading into this week’s ACC Tournament.
As the No. 8 seed, the Orange tip off at noon Wednesday against No. 9 seed North Carolina State in the tournament’s second round at Greensboro Coliseum. The game will be shown on the ACC Network.
Wednesday’s second-round matchup will be the 16th meeting between Syracuse and NC State since 1950, with SU leading the series 9-6 over the Wolfpack. The Orange are also on a two-game winning streak against NC State, including a close victory over the Wolfpack in the Dome on Jan. 31 and a February win in Raleigh. The Wolfpack defeated Syracuse in the two’s only previous matchup in the ACC Tournament, a 66-63 upset in 2014 that spoiled SU’s first ever ACC Tournament appearance.
While a victory of the ACC Tournament would guarantee the Orange a bid to March Madness, head coach Jim Boeheim’s squad could significantly improve its chances at an at-large bid to the tournament if they can pick up a second Quadrant 1 win against Virginia in the quarterfinals. Syracuse is 51st overall in KenPom rankings, ranking 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency but only 85th in defensive efficiency.
The team’s largest blemish on its resume is a lackluster record against elite competition. Syracuse has gone 14-2 against teams in Quadrants 2, 3 and 4, but only 1-6 against teams ranked in Quadrant 1. Syracuse fans hope the team’s lack of wins against top-tier opponents can be overlooked by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Still, the Orange have taken care of business against teams they should beat, with their worst loss coming to Pitt, a Quadrant 3 team this season.
“We haven’t won Quadrant 1 games, but we’ve won all of those in 2 and 3,” Boeheim said. “We’ve had no bad losses and we have no Quadrant 4 losses.”
A nine-point road victory over the Wolfpack on Feb. 9 was Syracuse’s only Quadrant 1 win this season. ACC All-Defensive Team starter Manny Bates led NC State’s active defense to rank 76th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency this season.
NC State has won its last five conference games, including its best win of the season in late February when they defeated UVA. The Wolfpack are one of a few ACC teams, including SU, on the NCAA Tournament bubble. NC State has gotten a boost from the recent play of Dereon Seabron, who was named ACC Freshman of the Week to start March after putting up a career-high 17 points and 13 rebounds against Notre Dame.
Keeping Up with the ACC Competition
Syracuse has struggled in conference tournaments since leaving the Big East for the ACC in 2013, with only three wins in conference tournament games since switching conferences. According to Basketball Reference, SU has won 55% of its conference games as a member of the ACC, which is down from its 65.8% all-time record in Big East conference play. As the graph illustrates, SU’s conference year-over-year winning percentage in the ACC is significantly down from the Orange’s conference record against the Big East throughout the Boeheim era, with the exception of the 2013-14 season.
For Syracuse to break its cycle of underperforming in ACC tournaments and make noise in this year’s March Madness, the team will need to rely on their 3-point shooting. SU’s chances in the tournament hinge on the team’s success from beyond the arc. The Orange’s performance this season correlated with the team’s 3-point shooting percentage: SU shot 37% from beyond the arc in wins and just 27% from the 3-point territory in its nine losses this season, according to Basketball Reference.
The Orange’s tendency to “live by the 3, die by the 3” is only heightened by the variance of their leading scorer, Buddy Boeheim. As shown in the graph below, Buddy’s performance was key to the Orange’s 15 regular season victories, scoring 17.8 points per game on 42.2% shooting from beyond the arc. In losses, the shooting guard scored more than five points less per game on 36.7% shooting from deep.
SU has four double-digit scorers this season, led by Buddy’s 16 points per game. Quincy Guerrier, who was named to the All-ACC third team, put up 14.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in the regular season, with a combined 2.5 steals and blocks per game. Forward Alan Griffin, who was named an All-ACC honorable mention this season, tallied 15.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his first year after transferring from Illinois, including 41 combined points in two wins over NC State. Center Marek Dolezaj also logged 10.2 points a game to go with 5.3 rebounds per game, third most on the team this year.
SU’s only other players to average double-digit minutes per game in the regular season were Joe Girard III and Kadary Richmond. Girard declined from 34.5% from beyond the arc last season to 32.2% on 5.1 attempts from deepa game this year. Richmond, a freshman forward from Brooklyn, garnered praise from Boeheim after the team’s win over North Carolina last week for his active defense and “really great passes.”
If the Orange can convert their 3-point shots, improve their defensive efficiency against top-tier competition and get contributions from all of their regular rotation players, the team will have a chance to go deep in the ACC Tournament and make a run toward the program’s 41st NCAA Tournament appearance.