Syracuse fans needed to take a deep breath and relax for a couple of days after Wednesday night’s thriller against Pittsburgh, but on Saturday the Orange are right back at it as they host the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the Carrier Dome.
The top-ranked Orange, 24-0 (11-0), squeaked out a come-from-behind victory against the Panthers on a buzzer-beating three-point shot from Tyler Ennis. Many questioned whether the Orange would have a letdown against Notre Dame after the overtime thriller against Duke, and the Orange did struggle, but behind Trevor Cooney’s 33 points they found a way to win. They are now in a similar situation for Saturday’s game, but the question is, does anything phase this team?
The Wolfpack are 16-8 and their 6-5 conference record places them in sixth place in the ACC. The Orange will have to watch out for ACC Player of the Year candidate T.J. Warren, who leads the league in both scoring with 23 points per game and field goal percentage (52.1 percent). With his big frame at 6’8″ look for the Wolfpack to put him in the middle of the zone and revolve their zone-breakdown around him.
The Wolfpack have struggled against top opponents this season as they are 0-3 against RPI Top 25 teams (Syracuse’s RPI is 3) and they are 1-3 against teams 26-50. The Wolfpack shoot just 30 percent from three and have only made 103 three-point field goals on the season, tied for 332nd in the country. The Orange will be looking to make them shoot long range shots and if they get into the middle of the zone, they can foul. The Wolfpack shoot just 65.9 percent from the charity stripe, good enough for 292nd in the country.
The Orange will look to score against the Wolfpack, who allow 69.5 points per game to their opponents. Despite that stat, the Wolfpack are an above average field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to just 41.1 percent from the field, but they commit 24 fouls per game, so look for Jerami Grant, C.J. Fair and Ennis to attack the rim and try to draw fouls.
The Pick: Syracuse has played that “letdown” game and won before, they have played in plenty of close games, winning nine games by ten points or less. This team finds ways to win and I don’t see any way that NC State will be able to beat the Orange in the Carrier Dome. A better “letdown” game for Fair would help the Orange, as he shot 2-13 against Notre Dame just two days after the Duke game. The Orange proved they can win with six players, but adding Baye Moussa Keita back to the mix (sprained knee) wouldn’t hurt. As of Wednesday he was listed as day-to-day. The Orange are on cloud nine right now, I expect them to come home and win fairly easily, 75-60.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Television: ACC Network/ESPN3