Stats & Info: john henson

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.
Kentucky Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels had met four previous times when both schools were ranked in the top-five of the AP poll at the time of the game. In each of the previous four instances, the Tar Heels won and never had the margin been closer than seven points.

Both trends came to an abrupt end on on a single play Saturday in the 73-72 win, as the Wildcats improved to 8-0 on the season thanks to some standout defensive play.

Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis blocked a jump shot from John Henson to secure the one-point win. The game-ending block was just the fifth of his 36 blocked shots this season to come on a mid-range shot. And in a game that ended with a pointed defensive stop, it's not surprising that defense was also the story for much of the contest.

Down five points at halftime, Kentucky ratcheted up its half-court defense by limiting North Carolina to just 3-16 shooting on two-pointers in the second half. It was a continuation of a trend for the Wildcats, as they've been the nation's best defense this season, leading the country in adjusted defensive efficiency entering Saturday, according to KenPom.com. Specifically, the team's interior defense - a season-long strength - was on display yet again.

The Wildcats entered the game on Saturday leading the nation in blocked shots per game with 11.4 and added seven against North Carolina - their fewest in a game this season. But while the team might have fallen off its pace in terms of blocked shots, the defense as a whole cemented the team's win.

From North Carolina's end, Harrison Barnes scored 14 points in the loss and saw his streak of consecutive games with at least 15 points stop at 18. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that it was the longest active streak among all Division I players and the longest such streak for North Carolina since Tyler Hansbrough did so 22 consecutive games from January to April of 2008.

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