Syracuse so far this season has blown out all of the mediocre to bad teams that they’ve played (Colgate, Seattle, Cornell, and Bucknell). On the other hand they’ve gotten blown out by the four good teams that they’ve played (Virginia, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Iowa). That would pin them as a very average team which looks about right to me.
The main problem with Syracuse is their offense. Kenpom ranks it as 108th in the country. The only thing they do particularly well is getting to the free throw line. The biggest contributor to the offensive struggles is the lack of playmakers on the team. Elijah Hughes (17.9 points per game) is a do it all wing who is the main source of scoring and creation on this team. He can shoot (41.9% from deep), can take players off the dribble, and can pass (4.0 assists per game on a 25% assist rate (very high for a wing). He’s helped by guards Buddy Boeheim and Joseph Girard III add scoring and extra deep threats. Boeheim averages 12.6 points and hits 34.4% from three. Girard has 9.6 points per game and hits 30% of his threes which doesn’t stop him from shooting 5 per game.
These three players combine to average 20.4 3 point attempts per game. The problem with Hughes and Boeheim is that they struggle to finish inside the arc. Hughes only shoots 41.5% for two (worse than his three point shooting). Boeheim only shoots 36.6% from inside the arc. Georgia Tech’s defense is extremely stingy inside so I expect to see Syracuse bombing threes all game.
Compounding their offensive issues is a defense that isn’t as stout as Jim Boeheim’s zones usually are. They clock in at the 48th best defense in the country. The piece that their defense is missing is a big presence on the inside altering shots. This makes it easier to finish inside and really hurts the effectiveness of the zone. As usual they give up a boatload off offensive rebounds so James Banks, Moses Wright, and Evan Cole will be key crashing the boards.
Like Georgia Tech, the Orange play a very tight rotation. Hughes, Boeheim, and Girard are joined in the starting lineup by big men Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe. Quincy Guerrier backs up the big men and Brycen Goodine backs up the guards. That’s about it.
Kenpom ranks both teams as essentially equal. They have Syracuse as the 68th best team in the country and Georgia Tech as the 69th.
One fun little fact, Syracuse has atrocious free throw defense allowing other teams to shoot 75.7% from the stripe against them. Hopefully GT can shoot that well on free throws.
This should be a very tight and fun game. Kenpom predicts Georgia Tech winning 67-63 with a 62% chance of winning. Vegas has Tech as 3 point favorites. I think Syracuse gets it together and is able to pull out the win. They will hit a bunch of threes and Tech will struggle with the passing required to beat the zone.