Heel Tough Blog: Syracuse Preview

Updated: Jan 12

After having their initial January 2nd meeting postponed due to COVID, Carolina will meet Syracuse tomorrow night inside the Smith Center. This will mark the 1,000 ACC game for Carolina, as they own a 707-292 mark in conference play all time, those 707 victories are the most in the historic basketball conference. Carolina enters the game with a pedestrian 7-4 mark including 2-2 in conference, coming off a 67-65 win over Miami a week ago in the Sunshine State. All 4 of the Tar Heels’ conference games have been decided by 5 points or fewer, making it the first time under Roy Williams they’ve played that many consecutive close games.



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The Orange own a 7-2 record overall, but are only 1-1 in the ACC. Due to COVID-19 issues, Syracuse has only played twice since December 19th. Their most recent game was a win over Georgetown this past weekend in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse puts 5 players in double figures scoring, led by Quincy Guerrier’s 15.7 points. Jim Boeheim’s squad averages 80 points per game as they’ve transitioned to the style of play you see in the ACC. Guerrier is also their leading rebounder, at just over 9.3 per game. Despite their scoring prowess, Syracuse only shoots 44% from the field, including just 33% from behind the arc.


Syracuse always poses a different challenge for Carolina or any team as they play a unique 2-3 zone defense that Jim Boeheim has made famous. That could spell a recipe for disaster for Carolina, which enters the game shooting only 30% from behind the three point line. As has been the case all season long for the Tar Heels, their best offense is to play through their two bigs in Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe. At some point though, Carolina is going to need improved play from their young guards in Caleb Love and R.J. Davis if they want to be a serious contender, and make a run in March.


  1. Andrew Platek & Leaky Black: Both players have been highly criticized while in Chapel Hill ,and rightfully so. In the last two games though both have made big shots to help lift Carolina to much needed wins. Their emergence as difference makers and leaders can’t be understated, as they’ve filled voids within the Tar Heels both on and off the court. If they can continue to produce like they have in the last couple of games, Carolina will benefit greatly.

  2. 3 Point Shooting & Defense: Carolina shot 45% from behind the arc against the Hurricanes as Leaky Black connected on 4 triples in the road win. While that’s a great number, Carolina doesn’t need to fall in love with the outside shot, like the zone can force you to. With that in mind, they’ll need to make a couple of looks Syracuse will give them. On the flip side, their three point defense was as good as it’s been in league play, and that will need to continue against Syracuse. Despite their below average shooting percentage from behind the three point line, the Orange have guys that can fill it up from distance if they get hot.

  3. Turnovers: Carolina has to take better care of the basketball starting now if they want to mold into the team they are capable of being. Syracuse averages 9 steals per game. Carolina on average turns it over 16 times a game, which puts more emphasis on limiting the turnovers. The week layoff may not be good for rhythm, but it allows Carolina to get more time on the practice court. Carolina is more than capable of winning this game, if they don’t beat themselves.

Series History: Despite the tradition Syracuse has, Carolina is 13-5 all time against the Orange, having won 9 of the last 10. That lone loss was the season finale, as Carolina was routed 81-53 in the ACC Tournament. Carolina has never lost to Syracuse in Chapel Hill.


KenPom:


UNC - 29th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 108.6 (59th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 90.3 (12th)


Syracuse - 39th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.5 (56th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.7 (33rd)


NET: UNC - 52nd


Syracuse - 42nd


TV Info: The ACC Network will televise the game, with a tip scheduled for 9 pm.


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