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Syracuse-Canisius Preview

Syracuse students agree: Where's Canisius?

The Syracuse effort Wednesday against a spunky Charlotte squad left much to be desired from Orange Nation. Spotty jump shooting, incessant foul trouble, and a poor effort on the offensive and defensive glass may be sufficient to defeat a middle-tier Atlantic 10 foe; it is not, however, the recipe for success in the Big East Conference.

Saturday presents an opportunity for Syracuse to rediscover some semblence of domination. Cansius, a member of Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference, has put together three less-than-stellar efforts thus far this season, dropping contests to cross-town rival Buffalo and Big East Conference member West Virginia.

The lone victory on the Golden Griffin's schedule is an overtime triumph over Colgate, a team ranked 279th in Ken Pomeroy's ratings.

Unsurprisingly, Syracuse is expected to win fairly convincingly Saturday. If the Orange fail to achieve such success, Orange Nation could quickly become anxious with Holy Cross, Wichita State, and Oklahoma State looming on the horizon.

As always, for an exhaustive explanation of Pomeroy's methodology and statistical theory, this link may be a useful resource.

Offensive Analysis

Four Factors: Offense
TeamEff. FGTurn. %Off. Reb.FT Rate

If Canisius is not the worst offensive squad on Syracuse's 2006-2007 schedule, the Golden Griffin's are certainly in the conversation.

There are two issues with the Canisius offensive attack: turnovers and poor three-point shooting.

With respect to the first issue, Cansius simply is not taking care of the basketball. Generating a tempo rating of 74.2 possessions per game, Canisius is getting the basketball up and down the court. Those trips, however, are all too frequently ending with turnovers, as the Golden Griffin's turnover percentage ranks amongst the bottom 15 in Division 1 basketball.

Against a Syracuse 2-3 zone that makes its bones by clogging passing lanes with athletic wing players, Canisius will surely turn the ball over. The question is, though, whether the Golden Griffins can manage how and when those turnovers occur. Tempering its pace may be the best way for Canisius to stop the bleeding when possessing the basketball.

The other Canisius issue -- poor three-point shooting -- is not as easy to remedy and is the ultimate factor affecting the Golden Griffin's success (or lack thereof). On the season, 38.3 percent of Canisius' field goal attempts have come from behind the arc. Such a perimeter-oriented attack is not necessarily a team's undoing. Canisius, however, has only connected on 26.6 percent of its three-point attempts (286th in the country).

Such a recipe has lead the Golden Griffins to accumulate only a 45.8 effective field goal percentage and an offensive efficiency value of 93.3, both around the bottom 100 in the country. That, in and of itself, is not going to be enough to defeat a smarting Syracuse squad.

In essence, the Orange zone inherently forces opponents into attempting a significant amount of three-point attempts. With Canisius connecting so poorly from long-range distances, such a relationship benefits Syracuse greatly, allowing its opponent -- in this case the Golden Griffins -- to take itself out of the game before it has an opportunity to compete.

Thus, it is not surprising to see that the relationship between Syracuse's zone and Canisius' emphasis on the three-point shot will ultimately doom the Golden Griffins.

As for the Orange offense, the modus operandi for 2006-2007 has not significantly changed since its game against Charlotte. The two areas of concern, however, are offensive turnovers and offensive rebounding.

Much has been made of Josh Wright's contributions to the Orange effort this season. As the only true point guard on the Syracuse roster, Wright has been asked to carry a heavy load. With these expectations, though, Wright has unfortunately not risen to the occasion, taking the abuse of many Orange fans due to his penchant for turnovers and poor court vision.

The residue of such performance is Syracuse's middling turnover percentage. Should this team find pace with Eric Devendorf or freshman Paul Harris, the Orange offensive efficiency should skyrocket. If not and Wright is still asked to run the show, Syracuse will continue to suffer growing pains and an unbalanced offensive attack built on its transition game.

As for Syracuse's plummeting offensive rebounding percentage, the primary cause lies with Mookie Watkins' recent foul troubles and head coach Jim Boeheim's desire to play with a smaller lineup. Without an anchor in the center, Syracuse has struggled on the offensive glass. While such an effort will not doom the Orange, focusing on the offensive glass would give Syracuse more opportunities to score, a state of affairs that could counterbalance the team's recent turnover woes.

Defensive Analysis

Four Factors: Defense
TeamEff. FGTurn. %Off. Reb.FT Rate

There's one thing that sticks out about Cansius' defense: opponents are getting to the line way too much.

There are two connected issues with such a statement. First, Canisius is obviously getting into foul trouble. As most low-major teams have issues with fielding functional units greater than five deep, Canisius is playing with a loaded weapon. And the gun is trained directly on its own feet.

The secondary issue concerns the lack of contested points Canisius is yielding. Canisius has generated a defensive efficiency value of 108.4, good for 274th in the country. A big piece of its inefficiency, though, is the team's inability to keep opponents from scoring free points.

When not on the free throw stripe, Canisius has done a fairly nice job defensively. The Golden Griffins have done a nice job on the defensive glass, generating a value in the nation's top 70. Moreover, Canisius has also done a nice job turning opponents over, generating the 16th best value in the country.

Thus, if Canisius could just play with a little more discipline, it could keep itself in more games. If Canisius continues to put opponents on the line, though, new head coach Tom Perrotta is going to be looking at a long season.

As for the Orange, things are what they are. Syracuse is within reach of attaining the top spot in block percentage (23.6, 4th in the nation), and has done a nice job forcing opponents into taking bad shots (opponents are shooting only 36.6% on two-point attempts and 30.1% on three-point tries). The real value of the Syracuse defense, however, is that it is forcing opponents into attempting more three point shots than usual (41.7 percent of Syracuse's opponent's field goals have come from three-point distance).

As noted earlier, this should be the aspect of the game that ultimately determines whether Canisius can hang with the Orange. Given the fact that Canisius is so anemic from beyond the arc, Syracuse should have enough defensive might to simply will a victory on the back of Canisius' poor offense.

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