Stats & Info: Fab Melo

Fab Melo's absence from the Men’s Basketball Championship will no doubt hurt Syracuse’s chances to win its first title since 2003.

Statistically how will Syracuse be impacted by the loss of Melo?

He missed three games during the season, including the Orange’s first loss of the season at Notre Dame. In those three games, Syracuse averaged 60.3 PPG (76.0 with him) and had a -11.0 rebound differential (-0.4 in the 29 games he played).

In the three games the 7-footer missed this season, Syracuse – understandably – saw a significant decline in specific areas of its offense. With Melo, the Orange averaged 35.4 points per game in the paint, but just 28.7 without him. Their second-chance PPG also dropped from 13.5 with Melo to 6.3 without.

Melo’s 7.8 PPG ranked sixth on the team this season, but the void he’ll leave on the defensive end might be where Syracuse sees the biggest impact.

In the three games Syracuse played without Melo, opponents averaged nearly 10 more points per 100 possessions, had a slightly higher field goal percentage and their offensive rebound percentage went from 39.1 to 42.2.

Melo’s 2.93 blocks per game ranks fifth among players in this year’s Men’s Basketball Championship. Melo had 37.6 percent of Syracuse’s blocked shots this season (88 of 234). With Melo out, Syracuse’s leading shot blockers are James Southerland and Baye Keita, both of whom averaged 0.9 BPG.

(Syracuse is one of the nation's best teams at converting defense into offense. The Orange average 1.23 points for every forced turnover, which is the second highest rate among schools in the Big Six conferences.)

Syracuse’s BPI this season was 89.7, but in the three games he missed, the Orange’s BPI was 73.1. (That number was brought down significantly by the 11-point loss to Notre Dame.) If you believe that Syracuse without Melo is a 73.1 BPI team, then that would drop the Orange from second to 41st in the season-long rankings, just ahead of West Virginia.
Rivalry Week comes to an end with two Big Monday matchups on ESPN. At 7 Eastern, No. 2 Syracuse travels to No. 18 Louisville. The nightcap at 9 Eastern is a Sunflower State showdown between No. 5 Kansas and Kansas State.

(2) Syracuse at (18) Louisville, 7 ET on ESPN
The Orange have won three straight road games against ranked opponents, tied for their longest streak since the start of the 1996-97 season. However, Syracuse has failed to win in four road trips to Louisville since the Cardinals joined the Big East. The Cardinals have won seven straight meetings between the schools, with the Orange last winning on Feb. 18, 2006.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Syracuse’s seven-game losing streak to Louisville is the longest that Jim Boeheim has suffered against a Big East opponent. The Cardinals are also perfect in four games against Syracuse when the Orange are ranked in the Top 5.

The key for both teams so far this season has been defense. Both rank in the Top 15 in the nation in steals per game and field-goal percentage defense.

But while Syracuse is also among the top teams in taking care of the ball (fourth-lowest turnover percentage at 16 percent), their pressure could impact Louisville. The Orange average 22 points per game off of turnovers, the most of any Power Six school. Louisville turns the ball over nearly 15 times per game, the second-highest rate in the Big East.

Even with the return of Fab Melo, Syracuse’s zone defense hurts on the defensive glass. The Orange have the ninth-worst defensive rebound percent in the nation and have been outrebounded by double digits in four of their last seven games, including the loss to Notre Dame. Louisville could press this advantage on the glass, as Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng each rank in the Top 100 in the nation in offensive rebound percent.

(5) Kansas at Kansas State, 9 ET on ESPN
Kansas has 182 wins all-time against Kansas State, the most wins for the Jayhawks against any opponent. The Wildcats won their last home game against their in-state rival, but haven’t had much success in the series recently. Since the formation of the Big 12 prior to the 1996-97 season, the Wildcats are just 3-35 against the Jayhawks.

Kansas State’s home win last season gives the Wildcats a rare chance to win back-to-back home games against Kansas. They last won consecutive home games against the Jayhawks during a four-game streak that concluded in 1983.

After starting the season at 17-3, Kansas has lost two of its last five games with losses at Iowa State and Missouri. The last time the Jayhawks lost more than two road games in a season was 2008-09, when they dropped two non-conference games before finishing 6-2 in Big 12 action.

Orange keys: transition, post-up defense

January, 6, 2012

Getty Images/Nate ShronFab Melo's play this season has given him plenty of reason to smile.

With a 16-0 start for the third time in Jim Boeheim’s 36-year head coaching tenure, Syracuse aims to remain at the top of the college basketball world with its defense, as it takes on Marquette on Saturday.

The Orange will look to continue a run that has been steered by its defense and transition game.

Syracuse has been averaging 11.1 steals per game, a significant increase from the 8.8 it averaged last season.

Boeheim’s defense has more steals than any other Division I teams with 177, 20 more than the team with the second-most (UNLV, 157).

Generating turnovers has created four more transition plays per game than last season for the Orange.

That has led to more transition points, an increase from 16.0 to 20.4 points per game.

Leading the Orange in the transition game is Dion Waiters. The sophomore guard has been coming off the bench and providing energy by stealing the ball almost four times per 40 minutes, the third-highest rate in Division I, and scoring a Division I-high 97 transition points.

Another key to the Syracuse defense is guarding shots around the basket. Opponents who don’t turn the ball over are having trouble scoring. Syracuse’s interior defense has been fantastic, holding opponents to 23 percent shooting from the field and 0.46 points per play on post-up plays, both second-best in Division I.

The main reason has been the presence of Fab Melo. The 30 pounds he lost in the offseason has given him more time in the middle of the trademark 2-3 zone defense.

Melo played 10 minutes per game as a freshman last season and averaged a respectable 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes. This season Melo is playing 23 minutes per game, averaging better than five blocks per 40 minutes, and has looked like a completely different player.

But the bigger surprise to Melo’s improvement has been his offense. Melo has been running up and down the court for more transition points and taking advantage of his size on post-up plays. That is noted in the chart on the right.

Melo’s combination of skills has helped Syracuse shoot 50 percent on post-ups and 58 percent on putbacks. That size will be a key against Marquette, the second ranked opponent that Syracuse has faced this season.

Syracuse figures to have a significant advantage in what it does well. Marquette’s defense rates below average in opponents’ field-goal percentage against both post-ups (44.4) and put-backs (54.5).
Melo sets Syracuse record
Fab Melo blocked a school-record 10 shots as Syracuse defeated Seton Hall 75-49. Etan Thomas previously held the Syracuse record with nine blocks, which he reached on three occasions. The performance doubled Melo’s previous career high of five.

Melo had eight blocks at halftime, and was poised to challenge Dikembe Mutombo’s record of 12 in a Big East conference game. But Melo logged only eight second-half minutes in the blowout. It’s still tied for the third-most blocks in a Big East conference game.

Rebels runnin’ up the score
UNLV shot 67.1 percent in a 124-75 win over Central Arkansas. It’s the most points scored by UNLV since the 1990-91 squad that included Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. It’s the most points scored against a Division I opponent since Seton Hall put up 134 on VMI in December 2009.

UNLV’s bench scored 82 points, the most by a bench against a Division I opponent since UMKC got 94 points from its reserves in a 2007 loss to Oakland. Chace Stanback came off the bench and went 9-for-11 from 3-point range to lead all scorers with 29 points.

Moore owns the boards
UAB’s Cameron Moore pulled down a school-record 24 rebounds in a 56-49 win over George Washington. It’s the most rebounds in a game since December 2009 when Morgan State’s Kevin Thompson grabbed 25. Moore also led all scorers with 19 points, and had a double-double at halftime.

His 24 rebounds equaled George Washington’s team rebounding total on the night. In the second half, he single-handedly outrebounded the Colonials 14-12.

Everything but the points
The outcome of St. Joseph’s 81-50 win over Morgan State was never in doubt, so let’s just focus on one of the strangest lines of the season. Halil Kanacevic had seven blocks, eight rebounds, 12 assists and five fouls in 22 minutes. Oh, and he went scoreless.

His 12 assists fell two shy of the school record, and were the third most this season without scoring a point. His seven blocks tied the most in a scoreless game this season. Not surprisingly, he’s the only player in at least the past 15 seasons with 12 assists and seven blocks in a game.