With struggles on the offense end during the 2012-13 season, Syracuse must rely on its patented 2-3 zone even more than in past years. With a tough stretch of conference games ahead, the Orange will look to step up their game on that end of the floor.
About midway through the season, the Syracuse defense has performed very well. They are holding opponents to just below 58 points per game, good for 21st in the country. The defense has been even more stingy in conference play, at just 56 points per game.
Two big keys have led to holding opponents to such low points totals. Turnovers and low shooting percentage. Syracuse is forcing an average of 18 turnovers per game, which allows them to get out in transition where they are at their best. Aiding those turnovers the most are steals.
Michael Carter-Williams is third in the country in steals, helping the Orange towards their nearly 11 steals per game. That team total is good for fifth in the country.
Syracuse is also fifth in the country in blocks per game at approximately 7.5. Blocking shots has helped Syracuse hold opponents to just 35% shooting on the season, (fourth in the country) and dreadful 27% from beyond the arc (tenth in the country).
As the season has gone on, the intensity and aggressiveness of the defense has picked up. Since the loss to Temple, it has been a huge focus. They forced a season high 25 turnovers while only allowing 36 points in a win over Alcorn State. Opponents are scoring fewer than 54 points per game since Syracuse's lone defeat.
The rotations in the zone have been more crisp. Trapping has been more frequent, and the interior defense has been more physical. Rakeem Christmas and C.J. Fair in particular have stepped up their games inside.
Since conference play has begun, Syracuse has increased its frequency of trapping both along the baseline and at the elbow. That has led to turnovers, rushed shots, and allowed the Orange more transition opportunities.
The high defensive rankings are indicative of the type of defense Syracuse has been playing this season. With top ranked Louisville at the front of a difficult stretch of conference games, the Orange must continue to play the intense, aggressive, trapping defense they've shown so far in 2012-13.