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December 11, 2009, 12:22 PM ET
Where’s the love for the Syracuse offense?

by John Gasaway

I’m hearing a lot about how good the sassy new-look larger-player Syracuse defense is this season. The numbers from the Orangemen’s 9-0 start are indeed quite gaudy (the ‘Cuse has allowed opponents to score just 0.82 points per trip), and after last night’s 85-73 win over Florida in Tampa, Pete Thamel proclaimed this D the best he’s seen from his alma mater in the last 15 years.

That may turn out to be correct, I just think the timing of Thamel’s praise was interesting, coming as it did on the heels of a 75-possession game where both teams shot quite well from the field. Gator freshman Kenny Boynton looked better against this allegedly scary D than he has at any point this year, and indeed his team stayed alive in this game thanks to near-compliance with the Pomeroy Doctrine of Three-Love, devoting almost half of their attempts to threes and making exactly 40 percent of them. Syracuse prevailed simply because they shot 18 more free throws than Florida and because Jim Boeheim’s men (Rick Jackson in particular) feasted on the offensive glass, hauling down 46 percent of their own misses. 

Mind you, I have a rooting interest in Boeheim truly having a great D this year: I think the zone is shamefully under-used nationally. But as it happens what I like about this team already in murky December is what I’ve seen from their offense, specifically its balance. Wesley Johnson got all the publicity after his huge game against North Carolina in Madison Square Garden, but in truth he is but one highly-efficient Amigo alongside Arinze Onuaku and, more surprisingly, freshman Brandon Triche. All three players are exhibiting freaky levels of accuracy while taking between 22 and 24 percent of this offense’s shots during their respective minutes, it’s just that Johnson gets more playing time. Freaky December accuracy has a habit of coming back down to earth as true road games begin to accumulate in January, sure, but regressing from making 63 percent of your twos as a team over nine games is a really nice starting point.

I will keep Austin weird by writing about it. Soon.
It speaks incredibly well of Texas fans that they have a football team that’s about to play for the national championship and yet Longhorn fans still find time to send me a steady stream of emails saying in effect: Shut the hell up about John Wall and start writing about the team Rick Barnes has put together. Multi-tasking Texas fans, I salute you! If you were in the SEC (official non-Kentucky league motto: “Basketball? We play basketball?”) we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Fear not, Austin! With your team about to play Carolina and Michigan State, this writer is slated to switch over to all-UT all-the-time mode very soon. Is it physically possible for Dexter Pittman to miss more than one shot in a game? Stay tuned!

Unfiltered-back!
Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Give a fan a tempo-free stat and he is hoops-savvy for a day. Teach him how to do his own…um, I forget how the rest of that goes.
Hey, John, love your analysis. What’s your preferred source for player and team tempo-free stats? I enjoy Ken Pomeroy’s but he usually waits a while into the season to post them on his site.

Thanks!
Tim

Wha? Ken does indeed wait for the season to ripen a bit before he fires up the individual player stats, but his team-tracking robots have been up and running from day one.

As for yours truly, I am a true tempo-free locavore. By growing my own stats in the backyard (last night I had to put blankets over them because we had a frost warning) I can be assured of having fresh and tasty goodness to share with you all, whether it’s Andy Rautins‘ world-historic steal rate (no steals last night–I demand an investigation) or DeMarcus Cousins‘ near DeJuan Blair-like offensive rebounding (the Kentucky freshman is currently pulling in 22 percent of his own team’s misses during his limited and foul-plagued minutes). Moreover, speaking purely as a reader my sense is that this stuff is more prevalent than ever before in the encouragingly lively and interesting college hoops blog world. Heck, tempo-free mania has even snatched a few bodies at the MSM level.

Zounds, if this keeps up I’ll be irrelevant by February! Fortunately I’m told that Ken Burns‘ next project is going to be a history of tempo-free, so I’ll be able to do long and ponderous but strikingly well-lit interviews where I stroke my beard (I’ll grow one) while I compare Dean Smith to Emerson and Pomeroy to Randolph Bourne. Dig that crazy progress.    

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