Saturday marks the first time that the Syracuse Orange and North Carolina Tar Heels meet as ACC foes, but the highly anticipated matchup might not live up to the hype it had in the preseason.
Then again, it could the way the Tar Heels season has gone. Both teams have had completely different seasons. The Orange are ranked second in the country and are one of five remaining unbeaten teams. The Tar Heels have been a roller coaster ride, losing five of 12 games against unranked opponents, including Belmont and UAB. Despite this, the Tar Heels are 3-0 against ranked teams, including two wins against teams that were ranked in the top three when they faced them. We know what we will see from the Orange, but the question is, which Tar Heels team will we see in the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon?
The Orange are 2-0 in conference play, while the Tar Heels are a surprising 0-2. In both losses, they have shot 34.7 from the field, including 7-36 from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Marcus Paige has struggled in ACC play so far, averaging just eight points, shooting 5-27 from the field with 7 assists and three turnovers per game. The shooting struggles of the Tar Heels are good news for the Orange. Carolina will have to find a way to fix their shooting woes.
The Tar Heels have also struggled to take care of the ball on their current two-game losing streak, averaging 14 turnovers per game and their opponents, Wake Forest and Miami, are averaging nine steals. This is perfect for the Orange, who force 15.9 turnovers per game and steal the ball 9.7 times per game.
The Orange will have to rebound well, the Tar Heels are 11th in the country with 42.1 per game, but they should be able to shoot pretty well. The Tar Heels normally hold their opponents to 38.5 percent from the field, but the past two games their opponents shot a combined 45 percent. The Orange struggled against Miami, shooting 36 percent, but bounced back against Virginia Tech on Tuesday by shooting 46.7 percent. They will have to come out with an efficient start to put some pressure on the struggling Tar Heels.
The Pick: It is tough to tell which North Carolina team will show up. They have the potential to play a great game as they have proved, but they have also shown they are vulnerable. If they play the way they have the past two games against inferior teams, the Orange should have no problem winning. I think things can only go up for the Tar Heels but I think the Orange are going to be a little too much for them. The Orange win, 78-69.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
When: 12 p.m. ET