The Orange Invade The Dunk

Another big game at home. Another day filled with snow and rain. Number fifteen-ranked Syracuse rolls in on the heels of three losses in their last four games, and Providence continues on its quest for a signature win.

The 'Cuse is in the house, Oh my god!

The Providence Friars (13-6, 5-2) look to finally get that signature BIG EAST win they've been clamoring for when the #15 ranked Syracuse Orange (17-4, 5-3) invade THE DUNK on a projected snow and rain filled Wednesday night. Syracuse has lost 3 out of their last 4 games, which were all played against ranked teams. To make matters worse for the Orange, junior guard Andy Rautins (10.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG) is mostly likely out of the starting lineup due to a severely sprained ankle.

Let's take a tempo-free look at how the team's match up.

Syracuse comes in playing at an equally blistering pace as the Friars

Season Averages

-Raw PossessionsAdjusted Possessions
Syracuse72.0 (32)71.6 (26)
Providence72.6 (22)72.1 (23)

Based on the raw numbers alone, the Orange have an almost identical offensive efficiency rating (points per 100 possessions) - 108.9 versus the Friars' 109.1. However, when you adjust the ratings for each team's strength of opponents, Syracuse's offense climbs to 112.6 (29th in the nation) while Providence drops ever so slightly to 108.9.

Let's take a look at the Four Factors

When Syracuse has the ball....

 FTA
eFG%TO%OR%FGA
Syracuse Offense55.2 (13)20.7 (179)34.9 (119)44.8 (23)
Providence Defense49.3 (179)21.4 (137)34.2 (212)29.1 (41)

Syracuse comes in with an excellent 55.2% effective FG %, the best in the conference. Even though they take a healthy amount of threes (18 per game at 35.3%), Syracuse does most of their damage inside of the arc. Their 56.2% shooting percentage on two-point field goals is 6th in the entire nation. It's likely the Orange will have to rely even less on their outside shooting if Andy Rautins is unable to play. While Eric Devendorf (37.2%) and Jonny Flynn (34.2%) are also good three-ball shooters, Rautins takes 40% of the team's total three point attempts -- and accounts for 44% of all made! Sweet sassy molassey, even Jeff Xavier only takes a quarter of Providence's threes!

While losing Rautins would definitely hurt, Syracuse has plenty of other scoring options spread out nice and evenly amongst their team. Flynn, Devendorf, Paul Harris, and Rick Jackson all put up at least a 55% eFG%. Oh and then there is the enigma that is Arinze Onuaku, who simultaneously leads the nation in field goal percentage with 70.6% and most likely "unleads" the nation with a mind boggling 34.3% from the foul line -- on 85 attempts!

The Friars could have their hands full with Jonny Flynn, the lightening fast point guard who averages 15.9 points and 5.9 assists per game. The sophomore guard has been great at driving the lane and drawing contact (55.3 FT rate, excellent for a point guard). Leading the team with 35.3 minutes per game, is he starting to wear down? After shooting 51% from the field and 36.7% from behind the arc in non-conference games, Flynn has been shooting 38.3% / 29.3% in BIG EAST play.

One area PC can hopefully exploit is Syracuse's tendency to turn over the ball. Providence has the capability to force a decent amount of turnovers, and Syracuse averages 15 turnovers per game (last in the BIG EAST). Flynn leads the team with 3 per game, but he has been more careful with the ball for most of BIG EAST play. The team overall has started to somewhat limit their turnover numbers, but Syracuse still has committed 20+ three times this season.

Syracuse has been pretty average overall at commanding the offensive boards, but they only really rely on their forwards for this. Onuaku leads the team with 3 ORB per game, while Paul Harris (2.4), and Rick Jackson (2.1) are the only other players who get more than 1.5 a game. None of the three guards (Flynn, Rautins, and Devendorf) average above a half an offensive rebound a game. The forwards will have to contend with Geoff McDermott for their own misses -- he is third in the conference in defensive rebounds with 7.9 per game. The Orange need to really improve on both ends of the glass, because they have been beaten in offensive rebounding percentage in each of their last 5 games.

When Providence has the ball....

 FTA
eFG%TO%OR%FGA
Providence Offense51.7 (82)19.4 (91)38.0 (34)37.8 (130)
Syracuse Defense45.2 (49)17.7 (320)34.3 (214)21.8 (2)

So I hear Syracuse plays some type of zone defense, eh? Against that famous Boeheim zone, the Friars' success should obviously depend on how well they shoot the ball from behind the arc. It seemed like just yesterday when we all were questioning in our best Seinfeld voice: What's the deeeeeeal with Providence's outside shooting? Were Friar fans actually longing for Dwain Williams? Well, 7 games into conference play, the Friars find themselves 3rd in 3-point field goal percentage with 38.5% -- even after their 3-20 brickfest at THE DUNK against Cincinnati! Jeff Xavier has become super selective on his way to 5th best in conference play, hitting 16-34 (47.1%) in the 7 BIG EAST games. Sharaud Curry and the rock that is Weyinmi Efejuku are also just inside the top 10, hitting an identical 42.9% of their threes.

Despite playing a defense that dares the opposing teams to take threes, Syracuse only allows a stingy 28.9% 3-point FG%, which is good for 8th in the nation. However, this is a bit misleading since amongst their 8 conference games, they have played against the bottom 6 teams in 3-point FG% in the league. DePaul, Louisville, Rutgers, and Seton Hall all shoot well under 30% (but that didn't stop the Hall from shooting out of their mind against PC of course!). Georgetown was able to light up the Orange with 12-21 from behind the arc in their victory, and Notre Dame shot their usual 40% despite losing a few weeks ago.

The nature of the zone can also potentially create more offensive rebounding chances for the Friars. Overall, Providence has put together a spiffy 38% ORB%. In their first 5 BIG EAST games, the glass started to become a concern, as PC lost their battle in this category each time. However, they bounced back by controlling the boards despite losing to Marquette, went toe-to-toe with one of the best rebounding teams in the country in Cincinnati, and easily handled Seton Hall.. Not surprisingly, Geoff McDermott has led the team in offensive rebounds with 8 over the last 3 games -- Jonthan Kale and Weyinmi Efejuku(!) both have 7.

The Friars shouldn't rely on getting to the line too much. Even though Syracuse hasn't been as dominating in BIG EAST play as their #2 nationally ranked free-throw rate, they are still 3rd in the conference with a 25.6 FT Rate. It will be interesting to see if they can keep McDermott and Kale off the line, who are both ranked in the top 75 nationally in free throw rate.

What did the 4 teams do to beat the 'Cuse?

* Um, hit a three-quarters full court shot at the buzzer.

* Everyone but Georgetown easily outperformed Syracuse on the offensive glass (you can't rebound what you don't miss). Louisville especially won their game largely due to getting their own misses, compiling an outstanding 45.9 offensive rebounding percentage. There were a LOT of missed shots on both ends of the court in that one.

* Georgetown committed the most turnovers when beating the Orange -- only 12 for a turnover percentage of 17.9%. Cleveland State only coughed up the ball 9 times for a 13.7% TO%.

Conclusion

On paper this seems like a real winnable game for the Friars if they can continue at the high level they've been playing at on their own home court -- for a full 40 minutes. Can the Friars finally put an end to this "no wins against NCAA caliber teams" argument? Will Devo wear a hairnet? Will Harris rock his fro? Will Randall Hanke shoot better than Onuaku to regain the national lead in FG%? Will Clammy Sosa of the "Zooperstars" devour any fans at halftime? So many burning questions.

Only a snowy and rainy night in Providence will provide the answers.

You can find more from Friarblog at http://www.friarblog.com

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