NC State vs. Syracuse preview: Well this isn't terrifying at all

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse @ StatSheet
2014 Stats
2014 Roster
2014 Schedule

Syracuse Offense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 50.9 116
Turnover Rate 15.1 18
Off Reb Rate 39.3 10
FT Rate
42.2 136

Hoo boy. There were times while researching Syracuse that I felt like closing my browser and crying. We'll get through this, though, you guys. I don't know in what fashion or to what end, but we will get through it.

Starters

Tyler Ennis (6-2, 180) -- Ennis is living up to his billing coming out of high school, running the Syracuse offense with impressive authority for a freshman. He actually doesn't shoot the ball a ton, but he's definitely shown a knack for hitting the big ones. (Sorry, Pittsburgh.) He's shooting 38% from three, though he has been mediocre inside the arc. Mitigating the latter is his solid free throw rate and 75.7% free throw shooting.

Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195) --Cooney's three-point shooting improved from 26.7% (28-105) in 2013 to 43.3% (74-171) this season, which is good for the Orange since he isn't anything resembling gunshy. The bulk of his attempts figure to come from outside, and since this team doesn't have a lot of reliable three-point options, one of the many things NC State needs to do in order to stay competitive is keep track of Cooney at all times.

C.J. Fair (6-8, 215) -- From an overall efficiency standpoint, Fair has been up and down, and since late January he's alternated good and bad performances. He can be fantastic, as he was against Duke, but he's also got a few clunkers, like his 2-of-13 shooting effort against Notre Dame. Nobody on the team attempts more shots than Fair, so if he happens to pick Saturday for a bad day, that's at least a start for the Wolfpack.

In four of the six games PackMentality outlined here, he posted a sub-100 offensive rating. Of course, the Orange haven't needed Fair to be efficient to blow the stuffing out of many opponents--Villanova included--which just goes to show how good his support can be.

Jerami Grant (6-8, 210) -- Grant has the highest free throw rate of any player in the rotation, and he is shooting a shade over 69% from the line. That's big since his two-point shooting accuracy is only average. He'll bother some shots; he's also an excellent offensive rebounder.

Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250) -- There should be an official Super Terrific Role Player award in basketball. The sixth man gets love, but what about the starter who is exceptionally efficient in limited opportunities? Christmas is shooting a career-best 68.4% from the field--he's just not gonna factor significantly into the scoring because he's averaging six FGAs per 40 minutes. He is an outstanding offensive rebounder and ranks among the nation's top 25 in block percentage. What he isn't earning in scoring, he's getting elsewhere.

Bench

Baye Keita (6-10, 220), Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200), Tyler Roberson (6-8, 212). Syracuse lost forward DaJuan Coleman for the season earlier this year, while Keita missed the Pittsburgh game after spraining a knee against Clemson. The Orange played only six guys against the Panthers. It may not matter at all for NC State--and Keita could be back--but depending on how the game is called and how things shake out, this is another area to watch. Ennis, Cooney, and Fair have to play heavy minutes in any case.

Syracuse Defense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 47.7 104
Turnover Rate 23.1 11
Off Reb Rate 32.3 217
FT Rate
35.5 72

I suppose this is the ultimate test of what NC State has learned about attacking the zone. Syracuse is third in the country in block percentage and has finished in the top five in each of the last four seasons. The Orange discourage teams from daring to take twos to such an extent that everybody turns into Princeton--this year, almost 44% of opponents' field goal attempts have been from three.

Defensive rebounding is still a problem spot, as it has been throughout the Boeheim era. That's one seemingly inescapable negative with the zone. The Orange are forcing turnovers at an impressive rate, though, and when combined with that interior defense and the built-in advantage of keeping guys off the line, rebounding typically doesn't cost them games.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Syracuse by 15.

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