If Syracuse basketball wants to have any shot at entertaining an at-large berth to the 2021 NCAA Tournament, then it has to take care of business at home this Saturday afternoon against a sneaky good Notre Dame squad.
Look, I get that the Fighting Irish (9-10, 6-7) doesn’t boast an impressive record to date in the 2020-21 campaign. But Notre Dame has some solid successes, and the Fighting Irish has also hung tough in a lot of its setbacks.
Both the Orange (12-6, 6-5) and Notre Dame are hovering somewhere around the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings at this juncture. From my perspective, the league’s elite are Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech, and then there’s a bunch of groups kind of stuck together.
That’s where the ‘Cuse and the Fighting Irish arrive. Each unit has captured two wins in a row. For the entire campaign, Notre Dame has trounced Pittsburgh on the road, won at Kentucky, bested Duke on the Blue Devils’ own turf, and swept Miami.
The Fighting Irish has also lost relatively close encounters to a range of teams, such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, UVA, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The Orange better come ready to roll in this ACC clash with Notre Dame in Central New York.
The next Syracuse basketball foe, Notre Dame, does some things really well.
Of course, with an under .500 overall mark in 2020-21, the Fighting Irish has witnessed its shares of struggles. Notre Dame isn’t a great defensive squad, as it allows 71.8 points per game.
Additionally, the Fighting Irish doesn’t dominate its opponents on the glass, which could prove a positive sign for the Orange. It’s quite simple for the ‘Cuse. When Syracuse basketball out-rebounds its adversaries, the Orange is likely going to triumph.
Conversely, Notre Dame is an excellent shooting team, connecting on 47.0 percent from the field, 77.2 percent from the charity stripe and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. The ‘Cuse 2-3 zone has to remain active and alert, getting out to cover Fighting Irish shooters for all 40 minutes.
Similar to the Orange, Notre Dame shares the ball with precision. Both groups average more than 15 assists per affair. What’s more, the Fighting Irish doesn’t beat itself in the form of turnovers committed, averaging just 10.3 miscues a game.
That stat line is something to monitor in this conference battle, particularly since Syracuse basketball tallies a stellar 9.2 steals per contest.
All-time, the ‘Cuse has a 30-22 edge over Notre Dame in their series together, per orangehoops.org. The teams split their duels a stanza ago, with the combined margin of victory a minuscule three points.
The Syracuse basketball regular season is winding down, and the ‘Cuse can ill-afford a home defeat to the Fighting Irish if the Orange is to have a shot whatsoever at dancing in March.
Syracuse basketball is 10-1 at the Carrier Dome in 2020-21, while Notre Dame has a commendable four road wins. Something will have to give this Saturday, with the tip-off on the Hill scheduled for 2 pm.