Five keys to Wisconsin vs Syracuse

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The first game to tip-off in the Sweet 16 will be Wisconsin vs Syracuse. The Orangemen, the top seed in the East, struggled in their opener but put Kansas State away easily in the round of 32. Wisconsin, the four seed, dominated Montana and then needed a John Jenkins missed three to beat Vanderbilt.

Here are five keys to the game:

  1. The Badgers run the slowest tempo in the nation. Okay, that’s hyperbole. They’re not really the slowest. Western Illinois is. The Badgers are simply slower than the other 343 Division I teams. If Syracuse is ahead, then no big deal. But the extreme slow down can cause offenses to rush shots and make bad decisions. So much time can pass between possessions that it makes it hard to find a rhythm. So if the Orangemen fall behind, they could start to feel the pressure.
  2. Syracuse’s zone is famous, and Wisconsin shoost a lot of threes. 41% of their shots are from beyond the arc, and they make 36% of them. This should make them good against a zone, but we don’t know, because there are very few zones in the Big Ten. And when Vanderbilt went with a zone, the Badgers struggled.
  3. Syracuse doesn’t waste possessions. They’re 6th in the nation in fewest turnovers, and they’re 29th at offensive rebounding. Fab Melo was their best offensive rebounder, but even with him out they grabbed over 36% of their misses against Kansas State.  Which is exactly their season average. Take care of the ball. Extend possessions. A recipe for success.
  4. Because they never come out of Boeheim’s patented zone, the Orangemen are one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation (341st). Why does this matter? Because everytime Wisconsin gets an offensive rebound they have the option of kicking it back out and resetting the offense. Consider another 30 seconds lost.
  5. The Pomeroy factor. Mike Miller noted earlier that teams ranked highly by Pomeroy and Sagarin are doing quite well. And Wisconsin is a well-known Pomeroy darling. However his computers crunch the numbers, they like the big burly guys that can play defense and hit the three. Despite being the 4-seed, the Badgers are actually ranked two spots higher in the Pomeroys.