"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, March 07, 2008

Marquette Closes Out Regular Season Against Syracuse

Fresh off of a dominating defensive victory over Florida Gulf Coast, Marquette (22-7, 11-6) now readies itself for their final regular season game of the year. On Saturday, Marquette will face a Syracuse squad that is 18-12 (8-9). The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 3 pm Milwaukee time. John Saunders and Len Elmore will be on the sidelines for MU's 13th national broadcast of the season.

The Orange are firmly off the bubble, but are looking to close out with a strong run and hopeful NCAA berth. In fact, Andy Katz has an article talking about Syracuse and the bubble. Due to injuries, the 'Cuse have been relying on seven players, including some talented freshmen and sophomores. At this point, Syracuse is a team that has been backed into a corner, so Marquette will have a very difficult time emerging with the win.

On the other hand, despite the heartbreaking loss to Georgetown, Marquette has mostly been playing well in the last seven games. This is especially true on the defensive end, and MU wants to recapture momentum heading into the post season. If nothing else, a loss to Syracuse will result in the team finishing sixth in the Big East (behind West Virginia). Barring an extended run in the Big East Tournament, a loss will almost certainly cost Marquette a seed in the NCAA tournament. For a fan base that is craving for the team to fulfill expectations of postseason success, good seeding will play a major role.

After players return from injuries, and Boeheim welcomes a solid recruiting class, the true window for Syracuse will be next year anyways. Let's look for Marquette to extinguish 'Cuse's NCAA hopes tomorrow. Our window is this year.

Top Five Numbers to Know about Syracuse
As always, information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report and Game Plan.

  • 26 - Syracuse's national rank at pace
    • The Orange play one of the quicker tempos in Division 1 at just under 72 possessions per game
    • Pace is actually positively correlated with Syracuse's offensive efficiency. In other words, the quicker the pace for the game the better Syracuse does offensively.
    • Considering that they play their vaunted 2-3 zone and typically only utilize seven players, this is actually somewhat of a puzzle
  • 21.6% - This is the Turnover Rate that Syracuse has on offense
    • The 'Cuse have a national rank of 204
    • As we have previously discussed, this is a good sign for Marquette's defense
  • 19 - Syracuse's rank at Offensive Rebounding Percentage
    • The Orange are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country
    • Marquette needs to do a good job on the defensive glass
  • 10 - Syracuse's national rank for block percentage
    • Syracuse averages a block rate of 15.5%
    • In the past, Marquette has struggled against teams that do a good job of blocking shots (UConn, Louisville, Georgetown)
    • However, the rest of Syracuse's defense is only average (rank of 116)
  • 53.8% - The field goal percentage that Syracuse averages on two-point baskets
    • This is a rank of 14 among Division 1 schools
    • A lot of this is due to the efforts of 6'9" sophomore Arinze Onuaku, who has an personal effective Field Goal Percentage of 64.7%. That's 17th best in the country.
    • In contrast, Syracuse only averages 33.3% from three point land, which is only 247th in the country
In summary, Syracuse's strengths are their inside play. They do an excellent job of scoring two-point baskets, collecting offensive rebounds, and blocking shots. However, their overall defense is only average. In addition, although Syracuse likes to play a faster pace, this won't seem to harm Marquette. Look for the key to this game to hinge on how well our defense pressures Syracuse into more turnovers than they usually commit. Of course, this is no different than our usual game plan, but even more so given the Syracuse zone.

Media Updates (stay tuned for more links)

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