If Syracuse played Wichita State today, one simulator predicts the Orange win over half the time

In 100 simulations, the Orange beat the Shockers by an average 1.6 points.

The nation thinks No. 1 Syracuse (25-0, 12-0 ACC) is the best team in country, but the Orange isn’t the only team left without a number in the loss column. The Wichita State Shockers, number three in AP poll, join SU as the only remaining unbeaten team. The Shockers (27-0, 14-0 MV), out of the Missouri Valley conference, have breezed through their conference, averaging about 75 points-per-game.

While the Orange and the Shockers wouldn’t conceivably ever meet up until late in the NCAA tournament, what if the two teams played today at a neutral court? Using a simulation machine from NCAAGameSim.com, we get a hypothetical glance at what a SU-Wichita State match-up might look like.

In 100 simulations, the machine predicted SU to win 54 times, while the Shockers only received 46 wins. Even though the Orange win the more, 33 of the 100 games were decided by less than five points, four of which were decided in overtime. Only 17 games (10 for SU and seven for Wichita State) were decided by over 20 points. Furthermore, SU averaged 69.8 points-per-game and Wichita State averaged 68.2 points-per-game, a 1.6-point difference.

The machine spit out one possible scenario between the teams with individual statistics, predicting a 69-58 win for the Orange. C.J. Fair lead all scorers with 19 points, while Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney chipped in 18 and 11 points for SU, respectively. For the Shockers, Cleathony Early lead the team with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Ron Baker and Nick Wiggins chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.



Looking at the play-by-play, the game seems pretty indicative of how the Orange played so far this season: A low-scoring affair for the better part of the game, with both teams trading leads throughout the contest. The Shockers actually led the Orange after Ron Baker converted two free throws to make it 20-19 WSU and maintained the lead until SU’s Michael Gbinije hit a field goal to put the Orange up 40-30. But towards the end of the game, SU pulled away, like it usually does against its opponents (save for the last few games), and won the 69-58 battle.

Two oddities that jump out immediately when looking at the stat sheet are SU’s offensive rebounding and three-point field goal percentage. While the Orange usually average only 12.9 offensive rebounds-per-game, the simulator predicted SU to only grab one offensive board the entire game. Also, Syracuse makes 35.7 percent of its three-pointers this season, around five a game. But in this scenario, the Orange score eight on 61.5 percent shooting. Finally, the play of Tyler Ennis looked extremely insignificant in the simulation. The freshman, although not playing well as of late, only contributed nine points and three assists.

Billy Brown, a sports writer for WSU's student newspaper, The Sunflower also looked at the simulation and had a few comments of his own:

It’s hard to say what would happen without watching the game. WSU had trouble putting the ball in the basket during the simulation, shooting 30.6 percent on field goals to Syracuse 59.5. I’ll give Syracuse the field goal advantage, but not that generous of one. If the Shockers weren’t at 50 percent they’d be just below it, in the 45 or 46 percent range. Baker has been hit or miss from the three-point line this season, but I could see him putting up a couple more big buckets to give the Shockers an edge. In the simulation Fred VanVleet scored three points, all on free throws –- an unlikely scenario with his presence on the court. Looking at stats and play-by-play doesn’t tell how well VanVleet ran the floor, or how often Baker sacrificed his body to get to the ball. 

The simulation itself came from NCAAGameSim.com, which picked both the 2013 NIT and NCAA tournmanet winner correctly, and its bracket finished in the 96th percentile on ESPN's bracket challenege. The simulator uses each team's statistical profile (season averages, strength of schedule, etc.) to determine scores and statistics. 

What do you think? Is this an adaquete representation of what a SU-WSU match-up would look like?

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