Syracuse Welcomes Alabama for First-Ever ACC/SEC Challenge

Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023 at 6:51 pm by Sports Editor

By: Carson Fowler | @CarsonFowlerTV

Almost a year ago to date — Nov. 28, 2022 — the ACC, SEC, and ESPN announced the formation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball, starting during the 2023-24 season.

On June 28, 2023, ESPN announced the matchups for this inaugural challenge among power-five conferences. 

Syracuse (5-1) was selected to host Alabama (7-1) this Thursday, Nov. 30. The Orange and Crimson Tide will meet for the first time in program history, as the two teams have never played each other in the regular season or the postseason.

Alabama, which had 20 wins and an NCAA Tournament team appearance in 2023, picked up right where it left off last season — off to a hot 7-1 start (including a ranked win against No. 20 Louisville).

Syracuse is coming off a very productive road trip to Las Vegas, NV, for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. SU picked up two quality wins against Northern Iowa 71-54, and Iowa State 81-69. Alaina Rice was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Rice had a career-high 26 points vs. Iowa State, averaged 21.5 points per game, and shot an unreal 70% from downtown over the two-game stretch. But maybe the most important takeaway from the trip — a big-time bounceback for number two, Dyaisha Fair. After failing to reach double-digit scoring for the first time since March 3, 2022, vs. Northern Iowa, Fair went out and dropped a season-high 29 points (12-25 FG) against Iowa State. 

Fair and the rest of her squad flew home from Vegas on Sunday, left with only three days to prepare for the Crimson Tide. 

Alabama, unlike Syracuse, likes to play a bit slower and set up in the half-court. The Tide are amongst the best defensive teams in the country, force more than 21 turnovers per game, and allow just 50.1 points allowed per game (12th in the NCAA). 

Sarah Ashlee Barker, a six-foot senior, leads Alabama in scoring at 15.3 points, adding six rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Following Baker are Aaliyah Nye, Jessica Timmons, and Loyal McQueen, all capable double-digit scorers and tenacious defenders. Nye is also a near 40% three-point shooter. Five-star high school recruit Essence Cody rounds out the starting lineup. Cody, a six-foot-four freshman, leads the Tide in rebounding, at almost eight a game, while adding 8.5 points.

The Orange will definitely have their hands full. However, one of Bama’s biggest weaknesses is its three-point shooting (29.2%). Coach Jack has already shown this season that she likes to mix it up defensively and play zone. Syracuse makes teams take tough shots, especially from beyond the arc (allowing just 28.1% from three). I expect Coach Jack to put pressure on Bama’s ball-handlers early. Syracuse does a great job of speeding up its opponents and forcing turnovers. This will be pivotal against an Alabama team that turns the ball over almost 15 times a game.

Tip-off is set for seven tomorrow night, Thursday, inside the JMA Wireless Dome.


  • Push the pace of play
  • Stay out of foul trouble
  • Limit Sarah Ashlee Barker 
  • Win the rebounding margin
  • Don’t come out flat
  • Get pressure on ball-handlers