Despite all the trials and tribulations, the final week of the regular season is here, and it’s very important for the Tar Heels. They enter tonight’s contest against Syracuse with a 15-8 record overall, and 9-5 mark in ACC play. Despite a healthy overall, and conference record, Carolina isn’t a sure thing to make the NCAA Tournament, as they currently sit on the 10 line according to the latest projections by Joe Lunardi from ESPN. With their final two games against the aforementioned Syracuse, and Duke, both teams also on the “bubble” UNC can either play their way in or out of the Big Dance.
Ever since joining the ACC, it seems like Syracuse is always having to win their way into March Madness, and they’ll have to do it again this season. The Orange own a pedestrian 13-8 record, and just 7-7 in a mediocre ACC. With that in mind, this team is more than capable of getting the best of Carolina, as they put 5 players in double figures scoring, led by Alan Griffin and his 15.5 points per game. While the Orange are more potent on offense than in years past, their famed 2-3 zone hasn’t caused the problems it’s known for. While they do allow only 32% shooting from behind the arc, teams are shooting 50% from inside the arc, which favors UNC.
Coming off a major win over #11 Florida State, there’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this team, but you still have to be cautious because this team did lose to Marquette before beating FSU. After that loss to the Golden Eagles, Roy Williams said his team has a hard time handling prosperity. We’ll see if they’ve learned anything from past transgressions, as they hit the road one final time:
3 Point Defense: In their last 2 ACC games, Carolina has allowed just 6 combined made three pointers, and it’s not a coincidence that they won both of those games. In the meeting with the Orange back in January, they allowed 10 made triples, but on 29 attempts for 35%. If UNC can bring the same effort in this game as they did against Louisville and FSU, in addition to keeping Buddy Boeheim in check, it’ll slow down this high powered Syracuse attack.
Rebounding: Syracuse’s zone allows them to be suspect to offensive rebounds, which Carolina exploited to the tune of 24 offensive boards back in January. While you can’t count on that high a number of second chances, there’s no reason to believe this team won’t dominate the glass. Marek Dolezaj who is 6-10 is the tallest player apart of the rotation for Syracuse, isn’t capable of keeping the quartet of UNC post players off the glass.
Half-Court Offense: As much as Roy Williams hates coaching zone defense, he sure knows how to coach zone offense. Carolina’s offense in the half court was exceptional in the second half on Saturday, and that was against a team as long and athletic in the entire country. Garrison Brooks had a 16 & 10 in the first matchup, so expect him to initiate UNC’s attack. Their high-low game can be very effective, and it should be, but Carolina’s perimeter players will need to make the looks they’re given.
Series History: The Orange joined the ACC back in 2013-14, and UNC is 10-2 in that time span, having won 10 of the last 11. Overall the Tar Heels are 14-5 against the former Big East powerhouse, including going 4-1 in the Carrier Dome. UNC has won their last 3 times they’ve visited upstate New York.
UNC - 34th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.8 (65th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 91.5 (22nd)
Syracuse - 61st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.7 (28th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.2 (99th)
UNC - 41st.
Syracuse - 56th.
TV Info: It’s Big Monday on ESPN which is where this game will be televised starting at 7 pm.
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