The Syracuse Orange will be playing their last game of the regular season Sunday as they travel to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles.
The Orange, 26-4 (13-4), have lost four of their last five games, but have clinched a spot in the top four of the ACC tournament. With a win, the Orange will clinch the number two seed, but a loss could give them a four seed depending on the result of Saturday’s North Carolina-Duke game. Despite how the rankings work out, the Orange will not have to play their first game in the tournament until Friday.
Syracuse has been struggling mightily on the offensive end, and that has continued over the last two games, but there defense has started to struggle as well. Their opponents (Georgia Tech and Virginia) have shot 48.5 percent against the 2-3 zone defense and have made 12 of 28 three-point attempts. This is only the second time this season that opponents have shot 47 percent or higher in back-to-back games against the Orange (California and Baylor at the Maui Invitational). These two teams have also only turned the ball over a combined 15 times in both games. The Orange, on average, force over 13 per game, so this is something that usually doesn’t happen.
On offense, the Orange have shot just 37.5 percent from the field and have made just ten of 39 three-point attempts int he past two games. Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair have been provided the majority of their offense the last two outings as well, scoring 72 of 118 points on 40.9 percent shooting from the field. The rest of the team is just 18-54 from the field. If the Orange want to win against the Seminoles, they need to get more pieces working to bring back the efficient offense they had for most of the season.
The Seminoles are led by a couple of players. Sophomore Aaron Thomas leads the team with 14.1 points per game and 1.6 steals. Senior Ian Miller averages 13.9 points per game and both of these players are mid-80 percent free throw shooters. The one man I think will give the Orange trouble will be Okaro White, the Seminoles’ top big man. He scores 13.1 points per game and grabs 6.5 rebounds. In the past two games, the Orange have allowed their opponents’ big men to pick them apart, as they are averaging 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The Seminoles shoot 46.8 percent from the field and 37.5 from three, this is a good offensive team that is facing the struggling Orange defense. They aren’t a bad defensive team either, as they allow only 65 points per game to their opponents and have the 18th best field goal percentage defense in the country, allowing opponents to shoot just 39.3 percent from the field.
The Pick: This will be a tough matchup for the Orange to win, especially in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are 18-11 and fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament, it is Senior Night and a win against the Orange would be a huge resume boost. The Orange need to get more people involved on the offensive end early and take advantage of their opponents biggest weakness if they want to win. The Seminoles turn the ball over 13.9 times per game, which is 295th in the country, so the Orange need to get back to confusing their opponents and forcing them into mistakes. The Seminoles have won three straight games and the Orange are struggling, plus Jerami Grant is doubtful for this game with those lingering back issues (according to Syracuse.com). I think the Seminoles pull off the upset and win 70-63.
Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL
When: 2 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN3/ACC Network