Syracuse men’s basketball opponent preview: What to know about No. 12 North Carolina

first_imgNEW YORK — For the first time since joining the league five years ago, Syracuse (20-12, 8-10 Atlantic Coast) won a game in the ACC Tournament by defeating Wake Forest (11-20, 4-14) on Tuesday night, 73-64. Up next: 12th-ranked and sixth-seeded North Carolina. A win might mean SU goes dancing. A loss almost certainly means it will not.“We’re just playing basketball,” junior guard Frank Howard said last night. “We don’t look at any game as a do or die.”The Orange and Tar Heels tip off tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN2 (expect that to be delayed, with Virginia Tech and Notre Dame not finishing up until about that time after tipping at 7). Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup with UNC.All-time series: North Carolina leads, 10-4.Last time they played: UNC escaped the Carrier Dome with a 78-74 win on Feb. 21. SU had fallen behind by double digits before making a late comeback and tying the game at 74 with three minutes left. But the Orange was marred by turnovers late, most notably guard Joel Berry II’s steal out of the hands of Paschal Chukwu that turned into a go-ahead fastbreak layup.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe North Carolina Report: Before that game two weeks ago, The Daily Orange’s Tomer Langer previewed the Heels. He wrote of UNC’s high-powered offense, which at 83 points per game now ranks 22nd in the country. He detailed the team’s well-rounded starting five, which contains four players who score in double digits. And he explained UNC’s greatest strength, its rebounding. The Heels grab more than 42 rebounds per contest, the best mark in the country. They boast an offensive rebounding percentage of 38.7. That, according to, is the nation’s second-best rate.Those facts have not changed. The Tar Heels have two All-ACC first-team players averaging more than 17 points per game in Berry and forward Luke Maye, who was also named the league’s Most Improved Player (Frank Howard earned second place in that category).But since beating SU, UNC has dropped two-straight, losing to Miami and Duke. The former seemed to be trending well for the Heels, but Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton somehow sunk a half-court buzzer-beater to stun Berry and Co. on senior night. In the latter, the Blue Devils smothered the Heels in the second half, turning a 10-point halftime deficit into a 10-point win. How Syracuse beats North Carolina: The Orange will be well positioned if it continues to score the way it did last night. SU averages less than 68 points per game but dropped 73 last night — one less than it had against UNC before going scoreless in the game’s final three minutes.So, clean it up down the stretch. Tyus Battle and Howard were both asked yesterday about what they need to do to turn last month’s close loss into a win, and they both mentioned the sloppy play that lost SU the game in crunch time. SU finished the game with 10 turnovers.“Just finish the game,” Howard said. “I think we’ve got to — some good schemes we can run against them. They’re a great team, attack the zone very well, but I think down there, there were just some costly turnovers, and we’ll just have to clean those things up.”Stat to know: 10-7That’s UNC’s record against Quadrant 1 teams, an important figure the selection committee will use in determining who’s in and who’s out. For SU’s purposes, it means this: UNC is approaching double-digit losses, and that’s why it is playing already on the tournament’s second day. But the Tar Heels have faced the nation’s toughest schedule and are probably better because of it. They’ll want to show they’re better than the six seed they earned.Kenpom odds: Kenpom gives Syracuse a 28 percent chance to win and predicts a 74-67 loss.Player to watch: Theo Pinson, forward/guard, No. 1Syracuse did a decent job of containing UNC’s strongest weapons last month. Luke Maye finished with just nine points and Joel Berry netted 18 on 6-of-17 shooting, but Pinson, who averages just under 10 points per game, dropped a career-high 23 points. He thrived inside the zone, making nine of his 12 shots and dishing seven assists. SU knows well what happens when a role player breaks out (see: Marek Dolezaj last night) and can’t let something similar happen again. Comments Published on March 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm Contact: [email protected] | @jtbloss Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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