‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Look at Syracuse Basketball and Wake Forest
Our analysts give keys and predictions for Syracuse Men’s Basketball as it heads to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to face off against Wake Forest in its first road-ACC matchup of the season.
Key to the Game: Maintain Shooting Consistency
Syracuse shot 48.9 percent from the field in Sunday’s win over Virginia Tech. That’s the Orange’s third-best shooting performance this year. But this time it came against a conference foe, a much stronger opponent than in SU’s previous wins. The defense will have to be on top of its game once again against Wake Forest, but the real key for the Orange here is to keep riding the momentum of that good shooting performance.
Prediction: Syracuse 70-62
There are always concerns about how well Syracuse can perform outside the Carrier Dome, and going on the road in ACC play is never easy. The Orange comes into this game riding the momentum of the ACC opener win over the Hokies, while Wake Forest is looking to bounce back from consecutive losses to Tennessee and UNC. Expect this game to be fairly even most of the way through, but in the end, Syracuse can win with another solid shooting performance.
Key to the Game: Offensive Flow
So far this season Syracuse’s defense has been outstanding, allowing just 62 points per game (No. 18 in the country). This defense is the real deal and is not going anywhere, but the offense needs to catch up. Last game against Virginia Tech the SU zone suffocated the Hokies, yet the Syracuse offense coughed up 15 turnovers. Despite the giveaways the Orange still won by 12. If SU can find a rhythm on offense Syracuse will have little trouble with Wake Forest.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-61
Syracuse has the potential for a strong offensive output, but keeping this season’s theme, the defense is going to dominate. Wake Forest is averaging just under 80 points per game. Yet, in three games against Power Five opponents this season, the Demon Deacons are averaging under 70 points per game. Wake Forest has struggled against lesser defenses than SU, giving me no reason to pick against Syracuse. Even with a home crowd, the Demon Deacons won’t have enough to take down the Orange.
Key to the Game: Contain Bryant Crawford
Wake Forest Guard Bryant Crawford scored in double figures 12 of the team’s 13 games this season, and as he goes, the team goes. During the Demon Deacons’ seven game win streak, Crawford averaged 16 points per game. The junior’s 17 points helped Wake Forest hang tough with No. 13 North Carolina on Saturday, as the Demon Deacons fell by just four points on the road. If Syracuse can continue its strong defensive performance from Virginia Tech and keep the Maryland native in check, it neutralizes Wake Forest’s main scoring threat and gives the Orange its best chance to win.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-55
Syracuse dominated Virginia Tech in Sunday’s victory in nearly every facet of the game. The Orange imposed its will, slowing down the Hokies’ potent offensive attack and receiving key contributions from Oshae Brissett (19 points) and Matt Moyer (11 points). If SU can replicate this performance outside of the Carrier Dome, it will dominate a Wake Forest team that already lost to Georgia Southern and Liberty on its home floor.
Key to the Game: Eliminate Dribble Drives and Kickouts
Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone was the shining star in ‘Cuse’s impressive win over Virginia Tech. And it will have to rise to the occasion once again in order to improve to 2-0 in ACC play. Wake Forest is coming off arguably its most impressive showing of the year in a four-point loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Demon Deacons assisted on 16 of the team’s 25 made field goals. Their upset bid over the Tar Heels was ignited by Brandon Childress and Bryant Crawford’s ability to knife through the Carolina defense, draw help, and kick it out for open three-point attempts. Syracuse must utilize their length on defense to cut off open lanes and smother Wake Forest’s playmakers.
Prediction: Syracuse 70-58
After holding one of the most prolific offenses in the country to just 56 points, Syracuse has proven that it can win games on the defensive side of the court. Wake Forest is shooting an impressive 47 percent from the field, but the Orange’s size and athleticism will disrupt any offensive rhythm. The Demon Deacons have implemented their own zone defense at different times this year, and I expect Danny Manning’s squad to do just that in this matchup in an attempt to slow down Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. However, I expect the Orange offense to continue to trend upward and register their first victory of the new year.
Key to the Game: Avoid Turnovers
I’m looking at you Frank Howard. The SU offense starts and ends with its junior floor general. While Howard has shown improvements so far this season, it’s time for him to really prove it in ACC play. Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford will likely shadow the Washington D.C. native for most of Wednesday night, which means Howard needs to be on his “A” game. Crawford averages 1.8 steals a game, which is fifth in the ACC. Given the lack of depth in the SU backcourt, Howard may play the full game. Whether the SU point guard protects the ball during those 40 minutes could be the difference maker for Syracuse.
Prediction: Syracuse 66-63
This is the exact type of game that Syracuse needs to win to avoid missing out on the tournament again. The Orange must prove it can win on the road in conference play and this is a great chance. The Demon Deacons have taken a step back since losing forward John Collins to the NBA last year. SU’s stout defense will be too much for Wake to handle and the Orange will improve to 2-0 in ACC play thanks to some clutch plays from Tyus Battle in crunch time.
Key to the Game: Dominate the Offensive Glass
Syracuse is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the ACC, while Wake Forest is the second worst defensive rebounding team in the ACC. The Orange will need the extra possessions against the Demon Deacons who are a much better shooting team than SU. If Syracuse can collect missed shots, they should come out on top in their first conference road game.
Prediction: Syracuse 70-60
Wake Forest’s top scorer, Keyshawn Woods, scored just six points last season when these two teams met. The pieces may be different for both sides this season, but the system is the same. The Orange is coming off a strong offensive performance against Virginia Tech where four players scored in double figures, and SU will roll to an easy victory in Winston-Salem.
Key to the Game: Win the Turnover Battle
Syracuse is sixth among Power Five schools in steals per game. ‘Cuse’s ability to get into the passing lanes on defense should once again shine against a Wake Forest team that averages 14.2 giveaways per tilt. But, the Orange has struggled with its own possession of the basketball, turning the ball over 42 times in the past three games. Head Coach Jim Boeheim will want his offense to continue playing at a slow pace, especially on the road where SU struggled mightily last season. If Syracuse can’t hold onto the ball, the speed of the game will be a factor.
Prediction: Syracuse 76-68
The inconsistencies of this Wake Forest team make it difficult to know which squad will show up a nightly basis. Danny Manning’s team lost three games to start the season, all to underwhelming opponents (Georgia Southern, Liberty, Drake). Yet the Deacons played No. 13 UNC to the wire in Chapel Hill, possessing the lead with under a minute remaining before losing by four. In the end, Syracuse will be motivated to add to the resume after receiving a season-high four points in Monday’s AP Top 25 poll. Expect the Orange to continue its unblemished all-time record (currently 5-0) against WF.
Key to the Game: Limit Frank Howard’s Turnovers
Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford is one of the best defensive guards in the ACC, averaging 1.9 steals per game. He’ll be matched up with Frank Howard, SU’s sometimes brilliant, but often turnover prone, point guard. If Syracuse is locked in a tight matchup, the team will need Howard to take care of the ball and limit easy opportunities in transition off turnovers.
Prediction: Syracuse 62-55
The Orange has played excellent defense this year, and just held Virginia Tech to over 30 points below their season average. If Matthew Moyer comes to play and crashes the boards early like he did against Virginia Tech, this matchup could get ugly against a less talented Demon Deacons team.