'Cuse Looks to Ride Momentum into Matchup with UNC
A win in Miami may have saved SU's (18-9, 7-7) season, but the road ahead doesn't get any easier. The team's next roadblock is #10 North Carolina (21-7, 10-5).
The Tar Heels are a perennial tournament team looking to make their third straight NCAA finals. This year the Tar Heels don't boast their usual NBA talent, but they still rank among the top of the NCAA in a couple of important team statistics.
UNC averages over 83 points per game, good for 21st in the country. This stems from an offense which dishes out the 7th most assists per game (17.9) in the NCAA. The Tar Heels don't shoot an exceptional field goal percentage, but they grab the most rebounds (43.3) of any team in the nation. Syracuse ranks at the bottom of the country in assists with just over 11 per game, and ranks 65th in rebounds per game (38).
Syracuse gives up just under 69 points per game, putting the team at tenth in the country. If SU can hold their next opponent close to that mark, its chances of winning increase significantly. The Tar Heels have won 75% of their games this year, but they are just 3-5 in games where they are held under 80 points. The Orange meanwhile haven't allowed 80 points to an opposing team since January 13th.
Keeping the scoring low against North Carolina figures to be a tough task. The best case scenario for the Syracuse defense is to force teams to take deep threes. If that becomes the trend of Wednesday's game, North Carolina can counter with four different players shooting over 35% from downtown this season (min. 75 attempts). This group includes junior forward Luke Maye, who shoots an astounding 47% from behind the arc and averages just over 18 points per game.
The Orange are 0-3 this year against teams with a top-50 rating percentage index (a quantity ranking sports teams based on wins, losses and strength of schedule). North Carolina is 5th in the country in RPI. 'Cuse will face two more teams with top-ten RPI's (Duke and Clemson) after the UNC matchup.
Tune into 88.3 for coverage of SU vs. UNC, starting with Countdown to Tipoff at 6:30 followed by the game at 7pm.
Syracuse is projected to be one of the last four teams in the NCAA tournament according to Joe Lunardi's Bracketology. A win against the Tar Heels, currently a projected #3 seed , would make it much harder to deny the Orange of a tournament bid.
Syracuse has lost its last five games against North Carolina. CJ Fair led the Orange with 20 points in SU's last win against UNC in 2014. The 13th edition of Syracuse vs. North Carolina tips off at 7pm in the Carrier Dome.