With Feast Week coming to a close, we can start to pretend like we know things about college basketball. Here are three interesting surprises after three weeks of basketball.
1. Syracuse’s shot defense. Boeheim defenses have been the knuckleball pitcher of college basketball. Generally, pitchers have little control over batting average on balls in play and basketball defenses have little control over opponent three-point percentage. In baseball, knuckleballers are a notable exception. In basketball, Boeheim’s 2-3 zone is usually among the the best at making opponents both take and miss plenty of threes. This season, the 7-0 Orange are allowing opponents to shoot 38% from three and 51% from two. Those numbers will be coming down by season’s end, but it will be interesting to see by how much. Syracuse has been very good offensively and uncharacteristically decent on the defensive glass. If opponent shooting regresses to normal levels, this might even be the best team in the country.
Bonus Stat: Baylor turned the ball over on 32.5% of possessions vs. Syracuse, their highest TO% since January 2011.
2. Everything about North Dakota State. Last year, the Bison ranked 59th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and 145th in adjusted offensive efficiency. With basically everyone coming back, the question was: Can NDSU make the jump offensively to be nationally relevant? Well, seven games in the answer is confusing. Saul Phillips’ team has been very good on offense (33) and absolutely brutal on defense (233). Last year’s solid interior defense and rebounding has simply disappeared despite having the same personnel. I’ll have more on this in the future, assuming the trend continues
Bonus Stat: Taylor Braun went 19 for 19 from the foul line against Santa Clara on Friday.
3. Lamar Patterson. Has anyone improved more to start the season than Patterson? The senior is 8th in the country in assist rate, shooting 55% from two, and 44% from three. Pitt’s non-conference schedule is incredibly weak, but they are at least beating the heck out of the weak schedule and Patterson is the main reason why. He is being used on about 28% of offensive possessions on a team currently ranked 7th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Patterson will have to prove he can do it against ACC competition, but right now he’s one of the standout playmakers in the entire conference.
Bonus Stat: This.