Goliath vs. Goliath: Previewing No. 2 Syracuse and No. 1 North Carolina
It’s UNC Week.
This is a game that second-ranked Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse (6-0, 4-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference) circled on their calendar since the schedule was released. Sure, every conference game in the stacked ACC is important, but nothing compares to going up against the No. 1 Tar Heels (10-0, 4-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference). Syracuse is one of the very few programs in the nation that can go to war with North Carolina. Let’s take a deep dive into how these two teams compare.
For this comparison, we will only take a look at the ACC matchups these two teams have played. Sorry to the American Athletic and America East, but UNC has six non-conference games under their belt compared to SU’s two. Without further ado, here we go.
No. 2 Syracuse is a potent scoring offense. In four conference matchups, three of which coming against top-10 competition, the Orange have 65 goals. They’re very consistent as well, scoring between 15 and 18 goals in each of their games. For UNC, the story is quite similar. The No. 1 Tar Heels have played No. 8 Duke once, No. 18 Louisville twice, and Virginia Tech twice. In those games, they’ve scored 75 goals, reaching the 20 goal mark in both games against VA Tech. It’s a tight comparison, but one team has a slim victory.
Advantage: North Carolina
Syracuse has been stronger defensively in their non-conference games than they have in the ACC. Over the last four games, SU has allowed 41 goals against. Graduate goaltender Asa Goldstock has been one of the best netminders in the ACC, but teams are finding ways to penetrate the shooting space efficiently. North Carolina makes Syracuse look like a high school club in regards to defense. The Tar Heels have only given up 23 goals in their four ACC matchups, including a 22-1 smackdown in the second leg against Virginia Tech. This category has a clear winner.
Advantage: North Carolina
I thought about calculating both team’s strength of schedule in the ACC, but then I looked at the formula and got lost. So, let’s not complicate this argument too much. Syracuse has the strongest schedule in the country and the highest rating performance index in the NCAA (.797). UNC has the nation’s fourth-toughest schedule and currently has a .674 RPI.
STRENGTH OF RECORD
This is similar to RPI, but the strength of record takes into effect projected wins vs actual wins. At this point in the season, LacrosseReference.com predicted Syracuse to have at least four victories due to their strong schedule. At 6-0, the Orange stand at first in the NCAA for the strength of record. For North Carolina, sure, they are 10-0, but their schedule isn’t as strong and therefore was expected to win at least seven of their games. They trail the Cuse in this category.
No. 1 North Carolina has been dominating their opponents while Syracuse is coming away with great victories against the nation’s best. It is safe to say that the No. 2 Orange will provide a difficult test for the Tar Heels come Saturday at 11 AM. Get your coffee and pop some popcorn.
Joe Puccio | CitrusTV Women’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter | @TheRealJoePooch