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Big City Classic Participant Profile: Syracuse

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The Big City Classic is ready to almost / kind of / probably not take over New York City this Sunday as six schools descend upon MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a massive tripleheader starting at 1:00 P.M. ESPN3 will have the broadcast of the opener and ESPNU will have the last two games of the day. As I need the pageviews and you need the skinny on the participants,College Crosse is going to profile each of this weekend's combatants.

I think most Orange fans knew that Syracuse's 2012 campaign was going to be one of transition, but I don't think any of them realized that it was going to be -- at times -- gruesome to watch. It's not that the Orange are necessarily a bad team, it's just not particularly a very good one in the overall (at least at this point in the season). For a program that claims 11 NCAA titles -- ENGAGE SILLY DEBATE OVER REALITY -- reliving a mirror of Syracuse's 2007 season isn't something that Orange fans are all too comfortable with.

It's kind of like understanding that your drunk uncle isn't just going through a tough time in his life; he's just a drunk that probably needs rehab to get better.

Anyway, here's the heat on Syracuse.


Every team in the country has warts, it's just kind of odd to see them on a team that has had as part of its history a kind of finesse that covered those blemishes. This isn't your pappy's Orange, nor is it your brother's Orange, and Syracuse is facing a challenge akin to hiking Killamanjaro in Chuck Taylor's on Sunday against Duke. Here's an abbreviated chart of Syracuse's production this season. For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

Record 4-3 (2-1) Clear % 88.46% (10)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 27.44 (39) Opp. Clear % 81.88% (20)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 24.54 (10) Faceoff % 45.57% (45)
Poss. Percentage 49.33% (36) Pace 74.43 (7)
Off. Poss./60 min. 36.71 (9)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 37.71 (55)
Save Percentage 49.6%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.25 (57) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 28.95% (31) Goal Differential +2
Opp. Effective Sht. % 30.05% (35) Shooting % 26.15% (49)
Def. Assist Rate 12.50 (10) Effective Sht. % 26.73% (50)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.12 (46) Assist Rate 14.01 (48)
Man-Down Conversion % 46.88% (52) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.12 (14)
Man-Down Reliance 0.23 (60) EMO Conversion % 28.13% (46)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.20 (18) EMO Reliance 0.13 (28)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.40 (5)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.35 (50)

Three pieces of incredibly important information from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • One of Syracuse's biggest problems this season has been on the offensive end of the field, which if I had told you that 10 years ago you would've laughed and probably asked me if my tinfoil hat was just a decorative accessory or if I truly believed that the government was trying to control my thoughts. Outside of the issue of incoherence in methodology -- Where does the Orange what to trigger their offense from: the midfield or the attack? Who does the Orange want to run their offense through: Tom Palasek? JoJo Marasco? Hakeem Lecky or Henry Schoonmaker via the dodge? How do Derek Maltz and Tim Desko fit into this as a lot of their production is dictated through those other questions? -- the biggest concern for Syracuse right now from an offensive perspective is the Orange's shot selection. Goalies are making stops all over the place against Syracuse (as evidenced by the opponent saves per possession metric) which is driving the Orange's shooting percentage straight into the ground. Duke's triumvirate of keepers -- Dan Wigrizer, Kyle Turri, and Mike Rock -- aren't exactly exemplary ball stoppers, but if Syracuse continues to accomodate the opposition with poor shots -- either in location or method -- the Orange offense will continue to flounder.
  • What is exacerbating the last point is that Syracuse hasn't exactly been able to volumize its offense over the opposition. Sure, Syracuse is playing as many offensive possessions as anyone in the country, but it's playing fewer offensive possessions per game than its opponents. As the Orange are doing a nice job of clearing the bean and driving its ride when necessary, the culprit here is Syracuse's abysmal performance at the dot. Winning draws at only a 45.57 percent clip this season, the Orange's seemingly 40-man face-off unit is killing opportunities for offensive possessions. (As an aside, I think the issue here isn't so much Syracuse getting crunched on the whistle but rather in its wing play. That's just an eyeball assessment, though, and may only exist in my head melon.) The Orange will get no favors in that department on Sunday when Duke rolls out C.J. Costabile and Brendan Fowlder to the dot, two of the most efficient players in winning the whistle. (The Devils are seventh nationally in face-off percentage.) With Syracuse likely losing the possession percentage on Sunday, the Orange are going to need to maximize their offensive possessions -- which Syracuse hasn't done all that well this season as evidenced by their adjusted offensive efficiency value -- or rub their rosary beads really, really hard and pray for good feelings and hope.
  • Only four teams have played in man-down situations per defensive possession more than Duke this season; only 13 teams have played in man-up situations per offensive possession more than Syracuse this year. If you're a Devils fan, this may be a superficial cause for concern; if you're an Orange fan, this is something that may make you prepare for imminent head explosion due to frustration. Syracuse is ranked 46th nationally in conversion rate with the personnel imbalance in their favor, making Duke's porous man-down unit (59th nationally in man-down conversion rate) look like less of an issue on Sunday. If Syracuse hopes to generate some value offense at MetLife Stadium, a big key is going to be how the Orange perform with the extra attacker. If Syracuse falters here and can't get anything in transition, it could be a long day in Jersey for Syracuse.

For more on Syracuse's opponent -- Duke -- check out the Blue Devils' profile here.