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Syracuse Hoops: 2006 Preview

Roll out the Orange leather.
Ken Pomeroy recently published his 2006-2007 Big XII preview over at the indispensable site,

In his honor, below appears a Pomeroy-esque look at the 2006-2007 Orange. A big "thank you" goes out to Ken for providing the data. Without his contributions to college basketball, such an analysis would be impossible.

It is also important to note that I have not provided explanations as to the particular statistics used. If you are interested in what each statistic measures, Pomeroy provides, in great detail, an explanation for each statistic.

Eds. Note: The data used below is derived from the .csv file available on Ken Pomeroy's site. It is not reflective of the data and rankings appearing on the website proper.

Introductory Information
2005-2006 Syracuse Basic Information
StatisticValueNat'l RankConf. Rank

23-12 (7-9)

Adj. Tempo


Adj. Off. Eff.


Adj. Def. Eff.


Pyth. Win. %



2005-2006 Syracuse "Four Factors"
StatisticOffenseNat'l RankConf. RankDefenseNat'l RankConf. Rank
Eff. FG %


TO %


Off. Reb. %


FT Rate



What Syracuse Did Well: Survive.
2005-2006 will go down in Orange history as one of the oddest in Syracuse's long and storied basketball tradition.

Playing the 16th most difficult schedule in the country, Jim Boeheim managed to top the 20-win plateau with a team that never fully realized its offensive and defensive potential. To fully understand such a statement, though, some numbers may be useful as supplementary material. In 2005-2006, Syracuse's opponents:

  • Shot significantly better than Syracuse from beyond the arc (34.2% against 33.9%) while simultaneously attempting more shots from that distance (37.4% of the shots attempted by Syracuse's opponents were from three-point territory). The end result could have potentially ruined the Orange given the extra value attributable to three-point tries.

  • Maintained a significantly higher free throw rate than the Orange (36.7 to 21.6).

  • Created more offensive opportunities by generating 64.0 assists per field goals made. Syracuse only generated about 60 assists per field goal made.
As Syracuse's record shows, though, the Orange acquitted itself fairly well. With efficiency values amongst the leaders in one of the most efficient conferences in the country, the Orange -- despite its notable deficiencies -- found more victory than defeat.

Probably the most interesting aspect of Syracuse record against its efficiency values is how the Orange offense functioned. In 2005-2006, Syracuse became a fairly perimeter-oriented team (almost 37% of Syracuse's field goal attempts came from beyond the arc). Despite this long-range mentality, the Orange crashed the offensive boards very well, ranking in the top 40 in the nation in offensive rebound percentage.

That, at least in the context of common thought, seems inapposite. But Syracuse managed to do it, and do it fairly productively.

What Syracuse Didn't Do Well: Share the ball.
Let's face it: Gerry McNamara was Syracuse's team last year.

Eating up 87.1% of the Orange's available minutes, McNamara shot and shot and shot his way to a remarkable 26.2 possession percentage value (25% indicates a go-to guy; 30% is generally considered impossible to reach). Syracuse's second option -- then-freshman Eric Devendorf -- finished second in Syracuse's local "Black Hole" competition, generating a 23.0 possession percentage value. Devendorf, unlike McNamara, saw somewhat limited floor action participating in "just" 67% of the Orange's available minutes.

In short, McNamara made the team go when he was on the floor. He was, in most circumstances, the first and second option. And when McNamara wasn't the primary option, well, it is probably because Devendorf was on the floor and made himself the first option.

As a residue of this mentality, Demetris Nichols, the team's leader last year in offensive rating at 107.3, only generated a possession percentage value of 19.2. This is especially concerning when Nichols served as the next-most frequent Orange participant in 2005-2006. With an effective field goal percentage of 52.2 (which was good enough to rank in the top 500 in the country), Nichols' potential contributions took a backseat to McNamara's Jekyll and Hyde shooting style.

Connectedly, Terrence Roberts -- long of tongue-wagging dunks and inexplicable technical fouls -- failed to contribute as much as he probably could have due to Devendorf and McNamara's exploits. With an effective field goal percentage within the nation's best 200, Roberts only had a possession percentage value of 18.6; this despite playing 78.8 percent of Syracuse's available minutes.

In short, a little more sharing of the basketball goes a long way. Especially in Boeheim's offense, where three available scorers are a must if the Orange expect to win.

What We Learned in 2005-2006: Arinze Onuaku makes an impact.
In many ways Onuaku is a forgotten player on Syracuse's roster. His actual contributions, though, are pretty noteworthy.

Participating in only 17.2% of Syracuse's available minutes, Onuaku managed to pull down 21.0% of the defensive rebounds available when he was on the floor. Moreover, Onuaku also excelled on the offensive glass, snatching 14.4% of the offensive rebounds available during his participation.

Furthermore, Onuaku proved to be an efficient scoring option for Boeheim. Registering a 56.1 effective field goal percentage (tied for the team's best rate), Onuaku finished the season with a 101.8 offensive rating. Most importantly, though, Onuaku was terrific at getting to the free throw stripe, leading the team with a 65.9 free throw rate.

Of course, it would be nice if Onuaku could covert on more than 44% of his free throw attempts.

What's in Store for 2006-2007: More of the same.
With Gerry McNamara gone and graduated, much has been made of the offensive vacuum he left behind. Looking at this departure from a pure statistical standpoint, however, McNamara's graduation may actually positively, rather than negatively, impact Syracuse's efficiency.

In short, the Orange will have the luxury this season of substituting McNamara's 45.8 effective field goal percentage with, ideally, another option. While it may take some time to determine what that option will be -- it will likely come from the triumvirate of Nichols, Roberts, and Devendorf -- there is no question that with a less black hole-ish go-to guy on the floor, Syracuse will have a greater opportunity to share the ball and create different offensive looks.

The moral of the story: Syracuse is going to win 20 games the same way it has won 20 games over Jim Boeheim's 30-plus year campaign. It's just a matter of the team figuring out which three options will lead the team to that plateau. When that pecking order is determined, things should shake-out fine for Syracuse as Boeheim can then establish his role players for the whole of the season.

Plus, there's a little defensive phenomenon known as Paul Harris now running the Orange hardwood.

Barometer Game: Wichita State
Syracuse's first significant test comes on December 2nd against the Shockers. If the Orange's core of seniors cannot run with Wichita on that date, there is no hope for a Big East crown or a notable run into and through the NCAA tournament.

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