Rebounding won't hurt Syracuse
The Orange have struggled to secure opponent misses but it hasn't burned them yet
The "Mendoza Line" is named for 1970s-era shortstop Mario Mendoza and is defined in baseball as having a batting average below .200. Mendoza was actually a career .215 hitter, but go fight colloquial City Hall. The expression lives, and it's useful.
In college hoops there are a couple clear Mendoza Lines that you may have seen me refer to from time to time. Definitely 3-point shooting that falls under 30 percent qualifies, whether that shooting comes from a team or an individual.
Another good example of a bright red line in hoops comes to us courtesy of defensive rebounding. The percentage of opponents' missed shots that your team pulls in should usually fall somewhere in the mid- to upper-60s. Anything over 70 percent is usually very good, although that number can be influenced by opponents' degree of aggressiveness in pursuing offensive rebounds.
Conversely, if the first digit of your team's defensive rebound percentage in conference play is a "5," that is just atrocious. This is the Mendoza Line for defensive boards: 60 percent. I usually see sub- or near-60 performances only from the occasional Northwestern, maybe a Providence or a Seton Hall from time to time, and very few others. (Ironically, the Pirates this season are above-average on the defensive glass.)
All of which is on point because this season's 29-1 Syracuse juggernaut has in fact been flirting with this particular Mendoza Line all season. At the moment the Orange have rebounded precisely 60.0 percent of their Big East opponents' missed shots. People like to say it's tough to rebound while playing zone defense, but Jim Boeheim's teams have played zone for years and this is the worst performance on the defensive boards that we've seen from one of his teams in recent memory.
My colleague Ken Pomeroy has already called attention to the Orange's "awful" work on the defensive glass, and in his piece, Ken came up with an incredible stat. Over the past decade, no NCAA tournament games have been won by a team that is this bad at defensive rebounding.
The good news for Cuse fans is that this amazing streak will come to an end in 2012. I'm going out on a limb and guessing that Boeheim's team will in fact win at least one NCAA tournament game. (I live dangerously.) Even so, Ken raises an excellent point. When a team is this off-the-charts terrible at something as basic and important as rebounding the other team's misses, how realistic is it to expect that team to mount a deep tournament run?
To see why John Gasaway believes the Cuse can make a run despite poor rebounding, sign up today and become an Insider.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.
MORE MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- Selection committee to monitor Embiid injury
- Mount St. Mary's (16-16) clinches NCAA bid
- Zags hold off BYU comeback, win WCC title
- Milwaukee wins Horizon title to reach tourney
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Insider College Basketball
New on Insider
Lunardi: Pac-12 locked into 2 bids?
Player Rankings: Davis over Robinson for POY
Lunardi: Where UW, Northwestern fall
Hume: Bid thieves are few
Bilas: Sizing up the Big East
Gasaway: Pac-12 stronger than it seems
Hume: Best bets among bubble teams
Lunardi: VCU may be first bid thief
Ford: Time running out for 5 NBA prospects
Lunardi: How UConn, Texas, others earn bids
Lunardi: Latest look at the bubble
Fraschilla: Previewing Big 12 tournament
Bilas Index: UNC remains at No. 3
Pomeroy: Trends predict UNC-Duke clash
Lunardi: No No. 1 seed for Big Ten?
Player Rankings: Purdue's pivotal players
Ford: Will MKG, Cody Zeller stay in school?
Gasaway: Rebounding won't crush Orange
Telep: UCLA's top recruits remain committed
Bilas: How Michigan State can still improve
Bilas: Keys to the Hoyas' continued success
Lunardi: Watch out for NCAA bid thieves
Lunardi Rundown: Kentucky is No. 1 overall
Bilas Index: Kansas returns to the top five
Make smart bracket picks by spotting Cinderella early.
And don't forget these Insider mainstays:
Doug Gottlieb, Fran Fraschilla, Joe Lunardi and Jay Williams offer their opinions.
Insights from the mind of the College Gameday analyst.
The national recruiting analyst weighs in on news and rumors surrounding the top high school prospects.
Stay on top of all the latest recruiting buzz.
Every D-1 player's efficiency rating.