‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Breakdown Syracuse’s Game with Boston College
In its final road game of the season, Syracuse travels to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. Can the Orange find more success away from the Dome or will the Eagles avenge their January loss to SU?
Key to the Game: Do Not Live and Die by the Three
In Saturday’s loss to Duke, Syracuse attempted 25 shots from beyond the arc, and made only six. Twenty-five three-point attempts is the second most by the Orange this season behind attempting 27 against Kansas, another loss. Five of Syracuse’s best three-point shooting performances this year have come when it attempts less than 20 shots from deep. The Orange cannot rely on the three ball going in to have success against Boston College. Look for options down low and have the guards drive inside often, and only take smart three-point attempts.
Prediction: Syracuse 66-62
Time is running out for Syracuse to improve its case to the selection committee, and a loss at Boston College would virtually end any tournament hopes for the Orange. Syracuse has to play hard and smart to keep postseason dreams alive. Boston College turned the ball over 17 times in Syracuse’s victory over the Eagles in January. Forcing BC into errors like that again could make a big difference for the Orange to get a key late season road win.
Key to the Game: Get to the Rim
Against Duke all the offensive momentum Syracuse seemed to be building came to a halt. The Orange had score 70 or more points in four of the squads last five before that game. What happened was that SU could not break down the Duke zone and seemed tentative to take the ball to the hoop. Syracuse got to the line just six times in the game. Against Boston College in the first go around, Syracuse shot 22 freebies in an 18-point win. For Syracuse to get the offense back on track expect Tyus and Frank to take it to the rack.
Prediction: Syracuse 65-57
Syracuse has continued to be in many close games this season because the defense will keep the team in it, and the offense won’t allow the team to pull away. Even in the loss to Duke, the Orange never trailed by more than 12 points until the final seven minutes. This narrative will continue about inconsistency on offense for SU. If Syracuse shoots well this game is a blowout just like round one between the two schools. But, I expect a good shot from BC in this one. Syracuse will bounce back from that dismal shooting performance just like after scoring just 44 against Virginia and then 78 against Louisville. I expect the Orange to come out with fire in this one.
Key to the Game: Stop Jerome Robinson
Boston College Guard Jerome Robinson is second in the ACC in points per game (21.1 PPG) and is shooting 51 percent from the field. And Syracuse has struggled defensively against star players all season long. It allowed 35 points to Kansas’ Devonte Graham, 22 to Virginia’s Kyle Guy and most recently, 19 points from Duke’s Marvin Bagley (all losses). Robinson is what makes the Eagles’ offense go—he’s scored in double figures in all but three games. For Syracuse to keep BC’s offense in check, it needs to slow down the junior.
Prediction: Boston College 67-63
The Orange heads to Chestnut Hill for a game it desperately needs to win. But Boston College is 14-4 in Conte Forum, including home wins over then no. one Duke and 25th-ranked Miami. Four BC players average in double figures, including the ACC’s second best scorer. Syracuse’s struggles away from the Carrier Dome have been widely documented (4-5 road record), so expect the Eagles to deliver the final nail in the coffin for SU’s tournament hopes.
Key to the Game: Get to the Free Throw Line
Syracuse’s offensive woes in Cameron Indoor cannot be overstated. It was easily the worst offensive performance of the year. The Orange attempted six total free throws in that game. Not only does that prevent ‘Cuse from picking up some easy points, but it also indicates that the Orange offense is settling for outside shots. In the impressive victory over Boston College earlier this year, the Orange shot 22 free throws. ‘Cuse needs to attack the bucket and draw whistles to jumpstart the offense.
Prediction: Syracuse 67-60
The penultimate contest of Syracuse’s regular season is a must-win. A win over Boston College won’t do much to bolster the Orange’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but a loss will almost certainly eliminate it from the conversation. The Eagles are a tough team to beat at home. This is not going to be a cake walk for ‘Cuse. However, I think Syracuse can recapture some of its offensive swagger and create some momentum heading into the regular season finale, and eventually the ACC Tournament.
Key to the Game: Rebounding
At the beginning of the year, rebounding was a strength for Syracuse. The Orange ranked inside the top-five nationally in non-conference play in most rebounding categories. However, since the schedule has stiffened up rebounding has actually become somewhat of a weakness for Cuse. In league play, SU’s defensive rebounding rate of 68 percent ranks third to last in the ACC. Teams like Notre Dame, UNC and Duke have single handedly beat SU because of offensive rebounds. The Orange needs to get back to how it was rebounding earlier in the year with a strong performance against a small Eagles team.
Prediction: Syracuse 74-69
Boston College has improved significantly this year but the Eagles are still a far cry from the bubble and don’t have much to play for Wednesday. Syracuse, on the other hand, desperately needs this win. On top of the added motivation, ‘Cuse matches up really well against BC as the Eagles lack size and experience. With that in mind, Syracuse should force plenty of turnovers Wednesday and grab another big road win.
Key to the Game: Winning the Turnover Battle
While Boston College turns the ball over at a similar rate to Syracuse, the Eagles have a much less active defense than the Orange. SU snags about 1.5 more steals per game. BC is unlikely to take the ball from Syracuse, so the Orange need to have good ball control and not cough it up on its own. If the ‘Cuse hangs onto the ball then it will have the extra possessions it needs to overcome being a weaker shooting team than the Eagles.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-60
Syracuse has only lost three games in a row once this season. While SU may play up and down, they have consistently gone back up after playing poorly like they did against Duke. Boston College has the second worst scoring defense in the conference, allowing almost 78 points-per-game. They are bottom five in the ACC is shooting percentage defense and personal fouls. The Eagles simply aren’t strong where the Orange is weak, and it showed the first times these two teams played. Expect it to show again.
Key to the Game: How Kind is the Home Basket?
On Saturday, Duke relied upon its bigs to outmuscle the Orange’s skinny post players, as the Blue Devils struggled from downtown (2-18 from the three-point line). Many of those looks from the perimeter, however, were without a hard contest. Boston College doesn’t have the inside presence, nor the talent, of Duke, but the team hoists a ton of threes and plays from the outside-in. When Syracuse pulled away from BC earlier this season, the Eagles scarcely looked inside, scoring only 14 points in the paint. More recently, in BC’s last two home victories, the team shot 43 percent from distance, but in its past two road contests, just 19 percent from behind the arc. Just how much give do the rims have in Chestnut Hill?
Prediction: Syracuse 61-58
Jerome Robinson is one of the hottest players in the nation, averaging 26.8 points in his last nine outings. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard should inch up a few more steps on defense to prevent Robinson from lighting up the scoreboard. What might be an underlying factor is the type of defense Boston College plays. ‘Cuse dismantled the Eagles’ primarily man defense for 81 points back in January, but after the success a weak defensive Duke team had playing zone against the Orange, BC might present SU with a different look. In the end, since mid-February, Syracuse circled this game on the calendar as a must-win, and the team forces the committee to take another look.
Keys to the Game: Tyus Battle – Put up or Shut Up
The Boston College game is an absolute must win for Syracuse. That means Tyus Battle needs to show out for the Orange whether SU wins by 20 or loses by 30. In the last three games, SU’s opponents have centralized its focus on stopping the sophomore, and the results have shown. Only 12 and 13 points against Duke and Miami with a 1-2 record for ‘Cuse down the home stretch of the ACC. This week, 12 to 15 points won’t cut it against two of the best guards in the conference in Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. The two combine for 36 points-per-game and have the shooting range to score over the top of the zone. If there was ever a week for Battle to will the Orange to victory, this is it. If he performs well and Syracuse wins, he will etch his name as one of the best SU players of all-time.
Prediction: 69 – 64 Syracuse
With the energy SU’s bigs have brought to the table in the past five games, I love where Syracuse stands coming into the game. Even in the loss to Duke where the front court struggled to contain two lottery picks, Pascal Chukwu, Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj’s effort was top notch. This is a big improvement from earlier in the year, even if the Orange was overpowered by talent in the loss to the Blue Devils. That effort will come in handy against the Eagles, who only average a +2.5 rebound margin per game. SU should dominate the boards, which has lent itself towards a W in 2017-18 if history means anything.