Carolina is on the road for the second consecutive weekend, as they are making the trip to New York to battle with Syracuse. The last time we saw the Tar Heels, they won their first game in the month of February, in a 85-79 win over NC State. The win gave Carolina another season sweep of the Wolfpack, and dealt a huge blow to State’s tournament chances. For the first time, Carolina’s improved play resulted in a win, and provided the team confidence it desperately needed.
This is Syracuse’s time of year, especially in years past. While they aren’t projected the tournament as of right now, a loss to Carolina would all but eliminate their chances. Elijah Hughes is one the more underrated players in this conference, and he leads Syracuse with 18.8 points per game. He is also their leading assist man at over 3 dimes a night. He does all of that while playing over 37 minutes, as depth is one thing Syracuse doesn’t have. Buddy Boeheim, the son of legendary Jim Boeheim is marksman from behind the three point line, and averages 15 points per game. This isn’t a typical Syracuse team, but they are Lorne than capable of getting hot, and playing their way into the NCAA tournament discussion.
Carolina’s has improved over the course of the season like they always do under Roy Williams, they just hadn’t been rewarded with wins. Well they got one the other night, and now we get to see how they handle that success. This is a winnable game for Carolina, if they play to the level the played the other night. They’ll also have to perform well in 3 areas to give themselves a chance:
Zone Offense: The Orange will play that 2-3 zone synonymous with Syracuse basketball. The Tar Heels offense hasn’t been great this year, but they’ve had success against zone defenses. The key is getting the ball into the middle of the zone, mostly at the foul line, and attacking from there. It’s a good thing that Garrison Brooks can hit a jump shot from that area, because he’ll have to. It also means that Cole Anthony won’t be able to play ISO basketball, and needs to play more like a point guard, than a scoring guard.
Good Passes: A simple part of the game, that the Tar Heels have struggled with all season long. If they don’t pass the basketball crisply, then Syracuse will steal in, and run it down the court for a lay up. The Orange don’t double when the ball goes in the post, so the bigs will have time to make the right play and not force anything.
Rebounding: Funny how this also appears, but it’s the only way Carolina has competed this year. It’s always a challenge to dominate the glass against a zone team, but it hasn’t stopped the Tar Heels from doing it before. It requires good box outs, and tracking the ball successfully off the rim. Syracuse won’t attack the offensive glass, so there’s no reason to dominate the defensive backboard today.
Series History: Carolina owns a 12-4 mark against the Orange. Syracuse won the first meeting back when they first joined the ACC, but the Tar Heels have since won the last eight. This will be the only second time they’ve played, and Carolina wasn’t ranked.
UNC - 92nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.0 ( 118th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.9 ( 80th )
Syracuse - 50th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.6 ( 29th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.7 ( 111th)
TV Info: In a loaded schedule on ESPN, this game is slotted for a 4 pm tip time, from the Carrier Dome.