After taking a quick look at Syracuse yesterday, let's dig in a little bit further.
The first thing it seemed that you notice about them is their length. Here is the height of their starters - 6'4'', 6'6'', 6'8'', 6'8'', 6'9''. They primarily run a zone defense, so this length comes in handy. The stereotype is that against a zone, you are going to shoot a lot of threes, and that is true against Syracuse. Typically, almost 40% of opponent's shot attempts are three-pointers, one of the highest rates in the country. However, that has not exactly been a successful strategy against the Orange. Opponents have shot just 29.8% from downtown against Cuse, the 19th lowest rate in the country.
If you go inside, you're not likely to have more success. Syracuse has the highest block rate in the country, led by guys like Rakeem Christmas (11.1%), reserve Baye Keita (8.2%), CJ Fair (3.7%), and James Southerland (3.7%). Cuse is also very good at forcing turnovers, as they have a top 25 rate in that department. If they have been susceptible anywhere, it is allowing offensive rebounds, as their opponents have a 34.4% offensive rebound percentage. Unfortunately, this is not the strong point for Montana, one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country.
All of these things combine to make Syracuse the 23rd best defense in the country, according to KenPom's numbers.
The bad news for Montana is that as good as Syracuse's defense has been, their offense has statistically been even better, as they are 16th in the country. They are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, with their 39.8% rate ranking fifth in the country. It will be important to always get a body on Christmas and Keita.
Elsewhere offensively, they can hurt you in different ways. Forward James Southerland made headlines with his three-point shooting during the Big East Tournament, and he shot 41% from downtown this year (and 53.1% inside the arc). CJ Fair might be even better. He can hit the three (27/55 this year), but it also an aggressive offensive player that can get to the line often. He is their leading scorer and rebounder at 14.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG.
Their guards are adept at getting to the line (between them, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche get to the line a combined nine times per game), and it so it will be important to stay in front of them and force jumpers. MCW shot just 28.2% from behind the arc this year, while Triche was at 28.5%.
Carter-Williams is one of the best passers in the country. He had an assist rate of 41.7, and tallied a third-in-the-NCAA 7.7 assists per game. He is a willing and creative passer, but he will turn it over too. His TO rate is 24.3 (Triche is 20.5), meaning there could be an opportunity for Montana to create some turnovers.
By average height, Syracuse is the second tallest team in the country, which will pose problems for Montana and their lack of frontcourt depth. Later this week, we will look at some of things Montana needs to do to combat the size of Syracuse.
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