Syracuse basketball to battle scorching-hot N.C. State in ACC Tournament

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Syracuse basketball probably needs two victories in this week’s ACC Tournament to feel somewhat comfortable heading into Selection Sunday, according to numerous bracketologists.

For the Orange, such a path to the 2021 Big Dance begins on Wednesday at noon, when the No. 8 seed ‘Cuse (15-8, 9-7) goes toe to toe with red-hot N.C. State (13-9, 9-8) in the ACC Tournament’s second round from Greensboro, N.C.

If the Orange was to prevail against the No. 9 seed Wolfpack, Syracuse basketball would meet up with No. 1 seed Virginia in a quarterfinal match-up this Thursday. The Cavaliers captured the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in 2020-21.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The ‘Cuse has a tall task in attempting to knock off N.C. State for the third time in the 2020-21 stanza, having already defeated this league foe both at home and on the road.

There are two relevant sides to this second-round duel. On the one hand, Syracuse basketball has to like its chances, given that it’s 2-0 versus the Wolfpack in the current campaign.

Conversely, it’s really difficult to beat the same team on three-straight instances in one season. Additionally, save for Georgia Tech, N.C. State is playing perhaps the best of any squad in the ACC at this juncture.

The Wolfpack enters its encounter with the Orange on a five-game success streak. N.C. State has beaten Pittsburgh twice, along with Virginia, Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Plus, four of those five contests came on the road.

Syracuse basketball faces a huge challenge in N.C. State at the ACC Tournament.

The ‘Cuse, meanwhile, conquered both North Carolina and Clemson last week in Central New York to bolster its March Madness resume. While Syracuse basketball is squarely on the bubble, the Wolfpack is hoping to arrive on the bubble itself by going on a run in Greensboro.

The main issue with the Orange’s resume is a lack of quadrant-one wins, as well as a dearth of achievements away from the Hill. Besting N.C. State would provide the ‘Cuse with a critical neutral-site victory, however, it would be considered a quadrant-two triumph.

That’s because, as of March 7, the Wolfpack had a NET ranking of No. 66, and N.C. State would have to reach No. 50 or higher for this game to reside in quadrant one for Syracuse basketball. Regardless, the Orange needs to take care of business versus the Wolfpack to continue its stay on the bubble.

For me, the two primary keys for the ‘Cuse are to defend the perimeter with precision, as N.C. State connects on a solid 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, and also for the Orange to take care of the ball extremely well.

The Wolfpack averages 8.5 steals per contest, and Syracuse basketball wants to avoid committing costly miscues that enable N.C. State to pick up easy points out in transition.

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