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Baylor-Syracuse: Early Statistical Look and Thoughts

Another zone game

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Baylor vs. Iowa State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor takes on Syracuse at approximately 8:50 on Thursday (the game is 30 minutes after the 6:20 tip of Gonzaga’s game).

Syracuse finished 20-13 and 10-8 in the ACC. They have a win at Duke, a 20 point victory over Louisville and a 10 point win at Ohio State.

The Orange have some issues on their resume. They lost to Old Dominion and Georgia Tech at home. They fell to Connecticut on a neutral court.

Baylor opens as a 1.5 point underdog. KenPom gives Baylor a 48% chance to win.

Here are a few big statistical focuses:

1) Offensive rebounding:

Baylor will have to crash the glass in this one. The Bears grabbed 50% of their misses against Syracuse in the 2013 Maui final. Run that part of the game back.

2) Limiting dribble penetration:

Syracuse sets up their offense with their guards winning off the dribble, which isn’t that unique, but the Orange have some big guards. They rank first in average height on KenPom.

Tyus Battle, Syracuse’s best player, missed the ACC Tournament with a back injury. He averaged 17 points this season. Jim Boeheim says that Battle should return for this game, and he was expected to practice today.

The Orange like to use dribble penetration to set up threes:

3) Stay zone:

Syracuse is 236th in effective field goal percentage and 244th in 3-point shooting. They like to fire triples—ranking 74th in percentage of shots from deep.

With Syracuse’s struggles hitting threes, and their strength driving, Baylor needs to stay zone. King McClure, Makai Mason and Jared Butler are all still getting back from various injuries. While the degree of some of those problems varies, Baylor’s struggled limiting quick guards. The zone helps Baylor stay closer against drives. It will give up threes, but if Syracuse makes those shots, congratulate them on another run.

4) Baylor’s turnovers:

As good as Baylor feels on the offensive glass, Syracuse feels great about turning Baylor over. The Orange are 10th in defensive turnovers forced, and Baylor is 264th in offensive turnover percentage.

The Bears can’t over pass in this game. Too many passes means too many chances to let Syracuse grab the ball. Take the first good shot. Devonte Bandoo has been too deferential lately. This is his time.

5) Working the middle of Syracuse’s zone:

It’s cliched that the way to beat a 2-3 zone is to get the ball into the middle, but it’s true. The Orange give up the middle, and once there, they can be beaten.

Mario Kegler—especially if Baylor opens with him starting at power forward—will have a chance to work in the middle. He needs to work getting the ball to the hoop, and while his jumper can go hot and cold, he’s been pretty solid from 12 feet.

Final Thoughts:

This is a good matchup between two teams that look fairly even on paper. These were overall seeds 30 and 35. KenPom lists Syracuse as a 52% favorite.

Thank God Baylor is back in the NCAA Tournament. I have 15 Syracuse games pulled up to watch and look through. That sure beats the NIT. Just ask TCU and Texas about that.