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Heel Tough Blog: Syracuse Preview

Later tonight, the Tar Heels will seek to win their second straight road game, and their fourth straight overall when they take on Syracuse. The last time we saw the Tar Heels, they put together their most complete performance of the season, as they took down rival NC State, 80-69. In the win, Armando Bacot became Carolina’s most decorated rebounder, as he became the school’s all-time leader in double-doubles and total rebounds. The win also pushed UNC’s record to 14-6 overall, and 6-3 in conference play, as they are starting to separate themselves in a crowded ACC.

After losing at home to Colgate in the second game of the season, it looked like it was going to be a long season for the Orange, and that was even more the case after losing at home to Bryant to sit at 3-3. But as they typically do under Jim Boeheim, Syracuse has improved as the season has gone along, and they are now 13-7 on the season, and like Carolina, is 6-3 in the ACC. They have three players that average double figures scoring, led by Joesph Girard III, as he averages 17.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, on 41% shooting, and 38% shooting from behind the arc. The other players to average double figures are Judah Mintz (14.9), and Jesse Edwards (13.9). Edwards also averages 10.8 rebounds, as he will pose a challenge for Armando Bacot on the glass tonight. Despite the two losses at home to Colgate and Bryant, Syracuse is 9-3 at home.

Even though Carolina’s lone road victory came against woeful Louisville, the Tar Heels now know they can go on the road and win ACC games, and they were going to have to do that if they wanted to compete for an ACC championship. Coming off the win on Saturday, where the Tar Heels played their best defense of the season, Hubert Davis is hoping to see that same effort carry over into tonight’s road game. If so, it’s likely that Carolina will walk away victorious:

  1. Play Inside-Out: Even in 2023, Jim Boeheim still deploys that 2-3 zone he’s made famous, something Carolina hasn’t seen much of this season. Under Roy Williams, he found the perfect way to attack the zone, by putting someone at the foul line, and attacking from there. Tonight, Pete Nance’s as a passer should be on full display, as he should camp out at the ACC logo, and break down the Orange from there. The zone is designed to make you settle for perimeter shots, but they need to pound the ball inside, and even drive the ball against the zone. Over the years, Syracuse has had a difficult time keeping Carolina out of the painted area, even with Jesse Edwards, Armando Bacot should still be the focal point of the offensive attack.

  2. Defend 3 Point Line: Syracuse shoots 37% from behind the arc as a team, even though they have limited their attempts from outside. They have five players in their rotation who shoot 38% or better from behind the arc, which means that Carolina will need to be disciplined in their rotations, and closeouts on perimeter shooters. In their last couple of games, Carolina has defended the three-point line well, as they didn’t allow Boston College to make a three-pointer, and held NC State to 29% on Saturday. Let's hope that effort carries over to tonight.

  3. Control the Glass: One of the downsides of the 2-3 zone, is that it leaves you suspect to giving up offensive rebounds, but that is an area that Syracuse has improved at this season. Led by Jesse Edwards, the Orange average 36.4 rebounds as a team, conversely, they allow 36.6 rebounds to their opponents. In Carolina’s biggest wins of the season, they controlled the backboards, which allowed them to control the tempo of the game. Tonight may not serve as a big win, but it would mark a second straight road win, ahead of a week off. Carolina knows what they are going to get from Armando Bacot on the glass, but they will need contributions from Pete Nance, Leaky Black, and even the guards.

Series History: Against the Orange, Carolina is 15-6 all-time, and they are 11-3 against Syracuse since they joined the ACC. Carolina won the only matchup last season in Chapel Hill, as the two have split the last four contests. The Tar Heels are 4-2 on the road in upstate New York.

Ken Pom:

North Carolina - 24th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.2 (16th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.3 (59th)

Syracuse - 81st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.0 (56th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (126th)


North Carolina - 32nd.

Syracuse - 99th.

TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 9 PM on ESPN.

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