‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Look at Syracuse Basketball’s Matchup with NC State
Syracuse hosts NC State with both teams sitting on the bubble. Our analysts give their keys to the game for the Orange and predict whether SU can pick up an important conference win.
Key to the Game: Exercise Your Size Advantage In the Paint
Looking at Syracuse and NC State, the Orange have a considerable size advantage down low. Syracuse has done a good job of out-rebounding opponents this season and needs to keep that up in order to control the flow of the game. The Orange has 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu and four players measuring at 6-foot-8 and above, all of whom play considerable minutes. NC State has its 7-foot man in Omer Yurtseven, and three players at 6-foot-8 or higher, but only two see real minutes on the floor. Syracuse has to use its height advantage to continue its dominance on the glass and control this game.
Prediction: Syracuse 74-67
These two teams are in very similar positions: both on the fringe of an NCAA tournament bid and looking for crucial wins to increase their cases to the committee. Syracuse has won two straight and is riding an offensive hot streak, scoring 78 points in both its previous wins, some of the highest point totals the Orange has tallied in ACC play this season. Syracuse will use the offensive confidence as motivation to get a key 18th win of the season.
Key to the Game: Floor Spacing
I hate to be repetitive but once again the key for SU is once again offensive. Last time out, the Orange made it two straight games with more than 70 points. Guess what, Syracuse won both of those games. On the season the Orange is now 13-1 when scoring more than 70 points in a game. Each time out this season, the defense for Syracuse has been dependable and I don’t expect that to change against NC State. Therefore, the question is can the Orange consistently hit enough shits. That will decide if SU improves to 7-6 in the ACC.
Prediction: Syracuse 71-64
Just like virtually every Syracuse game this season I expect this one to be fairly close throughout. In the end, I think SU is able to make just enough shots to pull this one out. NC State may average 80 points per game, however, the Wolfpack has struggled with consistency, especially against stingy defenses. The Orange boasts a top-20 defense in the country and I expect that to keep the scoring down in this game. In the end, if Syracuse plays how the squad did in the past two games, expect an Orange victory.
Key to the Game: Force NC State Into Outside Shots
North Carolina State’s worst performance of the season likely came in a victory, a four point win over lowly Pittsburgh (0-13 in ACC-play). In that game, the Panthers employed a 2-3 zone and forced the Wolfpack to knock down deep shots. NC State struggled, going 9-35 (25.7 percent) from beyond the arc. Syracuse’s zone is even better than Pitt’s, meaning as long as the ‘Pack takes plenty of threes, SU can find defensive success.
Prediction: Syracuse 72-68
NC State is an offensive-oriented team—the Pack’s 80.9 points per game is the 40th-best mark in all of college basketball. But Syracuse has been strong against teams that rely on putting up lots of points, including a win over Louisville, another top-100 scoring team. The Orange should control the pace of the game and pick up a victory over the Wolfpack to keep its tournament hopes alive.
Key to the Game: Physicality
In its last two losses, North Carolina State surrendered 56 points to Virginia Tech and 60 points to UNC. Syracuse is averaging less than 30 points in the paint per game in ACC play. The Orange needs to come out punching in the early-going in order to get the Wolfpack into foul trouble. ‘Cuse’s outside shooting has been inconsistent all year, so buckets at the rim can ease any offensive stagnation. If the Orange big men, along with Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj, can assert their dominance in the paint, Syracuse will wear down NC State.
Prediction: Syracuse 72-70
It’s staggering how similar these two teams are coming into this contest. If the regular season ended today, ‘Cuse and NC State would square off in the first round of the ACC tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently places the Wolfpack in his “Last Four In” in his bracketology, while the Orange sits on the outside looking in as part of his “First Four Out.” The loser of this game might be relegated to NIT conversation. In a game like this, I’m siding with a coach at home in his 42nd year over a first-year coach making his first trip to the Carrier Dome.
Key to the Game: Stay Out of Foul Trouble
The Syracuse frontcourt is about as fragile and depleted as possible right now. Bourama Sidibe has been great when he’s been on the floor but I’d be surprised if we saw him play significant minutes Wednesday considering SU’s on a quick turnaround. On top of that, the health of redshirt freshman Matt Moyer’s ankle is still completely up in the air. With all those question marks, it’s invaluable that frontcourt starters Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu don’t get in any foul trouble at all Wednesday.
Prediction: Syracuse 73-72
This is the biggest game of the Orange’s season so far. We are coming down the home stretch of conference play and NC State is a bubble team just like Syracuse. I really think this game will be decided on the final possession and might even go into overtime. But, I’m giving Syracuse the slight edge because Tyus Battle has been on fire lately and the Carrier Dome crowd is on SU’s side.
Key to the Game: Defensive Rebounding
NC State and its rebound margin of just under plus-two may look promising, but it is the product of a strange imbalance in the Wolfpack’s game. NC State grabs one-in-three available offense boards which puts them in the top-30 nationally, but on the other side of the court, a very different story is told. The Wolfpack are last in the ACC in defensive rebounds per game, thanks to their abysmal 71 percent defensive rebounding percentage. Syracuse should be able to exploit this weakness for offensive rebounds, and if the Orange can limit NC State’s second-chance points, it will be well on its way to a crucial ACC win.
Prediction: Syracuse 65-62
NC State has struggled on the road this season, going 2-4. To make matters worse for the Wolfpack, it is 12th in the ACC shooting from deep. About three-quarters of the Wolfpack’s scoring comes from two-point shots. SU matches up extremely well with NC State’s strengths. Syracuse has held teams below 43 percent from inside the arc in conference play. That is the best mark in the conference, and is a big reason the Orange will pick up the win at home.
Key to the Game: Locate Which NC State Player is Hot
NC State is the epitome of what we’d classify as an average ACC basketball team: 5th in points per game, 7th in field goal percentage, and 7th in total rebounds. The one aspect of the Wolfpack’s game that may confound the Orange is its offensive versatility. Six players average above eight points on Kevin Keatts’ roster, and the team has had three different leading scorers over its past four games. Whether Allerick Freeman, Omer Yurtseven, or Torin Dorn leads the Wolfpack charge, the team’s unselfishness (16.2 assists per game this season) allowed NC State to put up 89 or more points in both matchups against UNC. Individual scorers such as Pitt’s Parker Stewart, Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, and Wake Forest’s Mitchell Wilbekin have heated up rather quickly in the Dome, so SU must find the man with the hot hand.
Prediction: Syracuse 73-65
Trends in the 2017-18 college basketball campaign indicate most teams excel at home and struggle away from its own court. The Orange and Wolfpack both abide by this tendency; NC State is 2-4 on the road, while SU is 13-3 in Central New York. More importantly, Syracuse is relying upon the “take care of business” strategy to secure a bubble spot in March, with three top-14 teams remaining on the schedule after this mid-week tilt. ‘Cuse can’t afford to play sluggishly against a mediocre opponent, especially with the later 9 p.m. tip-off. Make it six of the past eight for Jim Boeheim’s bunch.
Key to the Game: Tyus Battle’s Performance
The importance of Wednesday’s matchup with NC State for Syracuse cannot be overstated. Both teams are 6-6 in the ACC and on the bubble when it comes to NCAA tournament contention. NC State is coming off a tough week with losses against Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Meanwhile, ‘Cuse is riding high with two off its most impressive wins of the season against Louisville and Wake Forest. The reason for SU’s success? Tyus Battle has taken his game to another level, averaging 29.7 ppg in the last two games. It’s the offensive spark SU has lacked for stretches of this season, but with Battle playing so well, it becomes almost impossible for the Orange to lose. Syracuse is 13-1 this year when they score 70-plus points. Against the Wolfpack, that 70 point threshold will be all SU needs to win, and it will be up to the superstar sophomore to get the Orange there.
Prediction: Syracuse 74-65
Will Syracuse come crashing down to earth? I don’t think so. When Marek Dolezaj and Pascal Chukwu are playing with as much energy as they did against Wake Forest, ‘Cuse is a tough out. However, NC State does boast four players who average double digit points and the fifth best offense in the ACC (80.0 points-per-game). I still think ‘Cuse pulls it out in the end. The Orange is riding too hot at the moment.