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Tale of the Tape: UNC-Syracuse

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a statistical look at UNC vs Syracuse.

North Carolina Syracuse
Record 10-5 15-0
ACC Record 0-2 2-0
KenPom Rank 37th 4th
Points per game 77.7 74.1
Points per possession 1.06 1.17
Offensive Efficiency(Rank) 108.7(83rd) 119.9(3rd)
Defensive Efficiency(Rank) 94.0(19th) 94.0(18th)
Tempo(Rank) 72.3(26th) 63.2(338th)
Offensive eFG% 48.4% 51.9%
Defensive eFG% 44.2% 48.8%
Field Goal % 45.5% 46.7%
3P FG% 31.4% 36.0%
Offensive Reb Rate 38.6% 40.2%
Defensive Reb Rate 69.2% 69.4%
TO Rate 17.6% 15.6%
FT Rate 48.2% 43.1%
KenPom win probability Syracuse 86%

Stats sources: KenPom and Statsheet

BREAKING: This is not a good match-up on paper for UNC. If you've ever looked at the KenPom website and the team profiles(which requires a subscription) there is color coding. Bright green is very good, that means you are ranked very high nationally in that statistical category. The colors then go to a paler green to white which represents average. The the colors go from pink to a bright red. Red is really bad that means you are at the bottom of a category.

Syracuse might be the Orang but there is a lot of green in the team profile.

The biggest takeaway here is Syracuse is a zone defense team that plays at a slower tempo. If that sounds familiar it should because that is what Miami was. The difference here is Syracuse is actually a highly competent offensive team shooting over 50% in eFG% and second overall in offensive rebounding. It is also important to note that the lower tempo is more of a product of the defense rather than the offense. Syracuse averages 17.7 seconds per offensive possession which is 173rd or right down the middle. Opposing teams are taking over 20 seconds per possession on average against the Syracuse zone. In other words, opposing teams find it difficult to score quickly against Syracuse because probing the zone can prove the be difficult. That also could leads to poor shot selection and it almost certainly leads to turnovers. Syracuse is 5th in defensive turnover rate forcing at 25.2%.

For a Tar Heel team that struggled against Miami's zone defense(read: not nearly as good as the one the Orange play) and hasn't done a great job holding onto the basketball, this game could be a proverbial nightmare.

Even the green numbers for UNC are not much comfort. UNC looks like a good team on the defensive end based on the numbers but watching them tells a different story. The numbers don't generally lie but this case they don't pick up on some of the trouble defensive lapses UNC has, especially guarding drives and defending the interior. On Saturday UNC will face one of the ACC's best point guards, freshman Tyler Ennis who yet to commit two turnovers in a game this season.

Not to be pessimistic but this isn't a good match-up for UNC so whatever mojo Roy Williams has for winning against ranked teams, he might need to use all of it in this one.