Road to the Final Four at Ford Field: Breaking Down Syracuse's Offense

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Road to the Final Four at Ford Field: Breaking Down Syracuse's Offense
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The Orange will run six players deep in terms of players who can change a game as well as single-handedly win it for the 'Cuse on the offensive side of the ball. The SU offense is a very free-flowing and open attack.

Occasionally, the Orange will run an offensive set to get an open look from three for Andy Rautins or a baseline three-pointer for Eric Devendorf. But for the most part, whoever gets the ball in the halfcourt (usually point guard Jonny Flynn) will look to create an easy shot.

Four different players—Flynn, Rautins, Devendorf and Paul Harris—can handle the ball and run the halfcourt offense.

The problem the Orange's next opponent Oklahoma has is lack of depth which in turn creates a lack of defensive flexibility. If the 'Cuse gets into an offensive rhythm, the Sooners won't be able to adjust. What makes the Orange so deadly is SU can adjust its offensive attack to what the defense is doing.

The 'Cuse is so balanced offensively that Jim Boeheim can tweak the team's attack at the hoop based on what personnel he needs on the floor to be the most effecive defensively.

The Orange can use a guard based attack predicated on using either a high post screen to drive and kick or drive or dump to an awaiting post player whose defender has committed to the penetrator.

Flynn is the most likely guard to drive and dish as the sophomore sometimes struggles to score around the net. Assistant coach Mike Hopkins calls Flynn the best ball-handler he's ever coached.

Devendorf will take his man off the dribble and will likely finish the play instead of pass the ball off to a teammate. The red-shirt junior is the best finisher on the team because of his ability to score with both hands around the basket.

Paul Harris will isolate his defender usually near the baseline. If the defender is smaller and/or weaker, Harris will back the player down and make a quick move to the basket within a few feet.

If the defender is bigger, Harris has the quickness, ball-handling skills, and athleticism to take the ball to the hoop. Harris can also knock down a mid-range jumper and every once in a grand while if he's wide open, a three pointer.

When the Orange's post players, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson, and Kristof Ongenaet begin drifting away from the paint, it is usually a sign the Orange is setting up a double-screen to set Andy Rautins or sometimes Devendorf for a three-point attempt.

Once every few possessions, the 'Cuse will use the double-screen to free up Rautins for a shot when he's on the floor. The red-shirt junior will get anywhere from five to 15 open looks from three per game and cashes in on close to 40 percent of them.

When Syracuse starts setting up its shooters, glue-guy Kristof Ongenaet will likely be on the floor. He's a tremendous offensive rebounder and a great screener. When there's chaos on the floor during a broken play, the JUCO transfer usually is the player that ends up with the ball in his hands, sprawled out on the floor because of his hustle.

Ongenaet isn't much of a scoring threat, but he's a solid passer and can finish around the basket. He's shown a little more assertiveness offensively lately. If a defender isn't respecting Ongenaet offensively, the Belgian forward has shown the ability to take the ball to the hoop.

In the post, the Orange has two players that are automatic around the basket. Jim Boeheim's club sometimes struggles to feed the post effectively, but when they do, its post players are very effective. Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku sometimes will be on the court together, sometimes only one will be on the court. Both ranked near the top of the country in field-goal percentage.

Each can finish with both hands, but neither are particularly good free-throw shooters. Onuaku is in fact terrible, knocking down less than a third of his attempts from the charity stripe.

Onuaku and Jackson won't crash the boards offensively, but do pull down their fair share. The duo can sometimes actually be the most deadly when they get out into transition. If the ball reaches the post before the defense is established, the scorekeeper might as well just put two points on the board.

Overall the Orange offense ranks ninth in the country in offensive efficiency. The 'Cuse score about 1.17 points per possession. SU ranks fifth in the nation in two-point field-goal percentage and 121st in three-point percentage.

All seven players mentioned in the breakdown have an offensive rating of 105 which is very solid and rare to have all of a team's contributors be that efficient offensively.

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