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Pre-Season NIT: A Final Analysis

November 28, 2011 Columns No Comments

NEW YORK – Syracuse captured the Pre-Season NIT title with a thrilling 69-63 victory over Stanford. A few notes on the consolation/championship doubleheader…

1. Tempo Free gives us a better look. Following the victory over Stanford, Jim Boeheim said his Syracuse team played 35 minutes of “horrendous offense” and five (in the stretch) of good. A tempo free look shows the Orange had 72 possessions and a 96 offensive efficiency (points per possession times 100). The 96 is a bit below average. Boeheim lamented that his offense needed work and thankfully the defense was good both days.

Against Virginia Tech in the semifinals, a 69-58 Syracuse victory, the Orange had 61 possessions for a 113 offensive efficiency, which is quite impressive.  So the offense for the two games could be considered a bit above average overall – excellent against Virignia Tech and and subpar in the Stanford game. Those first 35 minutes of the championship game were on the Syracuse coaching staff’s concern while tempo free numbers tell us the Orange did not have that poor a showing looking at their two contests at the Garden. The two games combined saw Syracuse with 138 points over 133 possessions, a 104 offensive efficiency. Over 100 is considered above average.

2. The defense was good. Syracuse held Virginia Tech to a 95 efficiency and Stanford a 91. Both marks are considered well above average defensive efficiencies. Boeheim was right on the money praising his defense as solid both days. Tempo free numbers bear him out on this.

3. The consolation game was fun. Exciting and down to the final possession. Virginia Tech edged Oklahoma State 59-57. The Cowboys got out to a fast 8-0 lead over the game’s opening four minutes. Virginia Tech did not panic and rebounded, literally and figuratively. The Hokies pounded the glass, getting second chance opportunities which spelled conversions and/or frequent trips to the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Markel Brown, a game-high 19 point scorer, provided an offensive spark for Oklahoma State.  But it was not enough. As coach Travis Ford pointed out, his Oklahoma state club allowing 21 offensive rebounds and 30 free throw attempts was too much to overcome.

4. Melo was a stuffer and other tempo free items . This had nothing to do with leftovers from Thursday’s feast. Fab Melo, Syracuse’s seven-foot sophomore center, had a “stat stuffing” game against Stanford. Melo scored six points on 3 of 6 shooting. He added nine rebounds while blocking three shots and coming up with three steals. His Manley efficiency number was 16, the game’s second-highest only trailing MOP  Kris Joseph. Melo did not get All-Tournament honors but his play drew the praise of Boeheim and his Syracuse teammates.


  • A big factor in Virginia Tech’s consolation win was dictating pace. Oklahoma State entered the game a speedy 72 possession per game team. Virginia Tech forced them into a pedestrian 56 possession tempo. In addition, the Cowboys scored only two transition points. Another factor was freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith’s 10-point, 14-rebound (8 offensive) performance.
  • Stanford had an outstanding 50% offensive rebound percentage in the final. Syracuse, though, was on their heels with a 47% mark. Both rates are outstanding. Melo (5) and Joseph (4) combined for nine of Syracuse’s 16 offensive boards.
  • Syracuse actually had an eFG percentage of 51% in the final. The sore spot which brought Boeheim’s concerns of offensive improvement was an alarmingly high 29% TO rate on 21 turnovers. Stanford, thanks to a solid Syracuse defense, was actually worse at 35% (24 turnovers). Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins made reference to how long the Syracuse defenders are and how they disrupt the passing lanes , thus creating turnovers.
  • Preparing for Syracuse’s zone, especially if you never faced it is tough. You can break it down on tape but simulating it in practice is very difficult. It’s an active zone with, as Dawkins noted, long defenders that take away options and shots usually available in other 2-3 alignments.
  • Stanford shot almost as well from three 7 of 18 (39%) as from two point range 17-38 (45%).
  • The Cardinal were also hurt by Josh Owens, a double-digit scorer, putting up only 4 points on 2 of 7 shooting.

The Honors:

Most Outstanding Player: Kris Joseph, Syracuse


C.J. Fair, Syracuse

Dion Waiters, Syracuse

Aaron Bright, Stanford

Erick Green, Virginia Tech.

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