Syracuse Basketball: How to watch ‘Cuse battle No. 7 North Carolina on the road

Syracuse basketball on Saturday has an opportunity to pick up a quadrant-one win when 'Cuse travels to No. 7 North Carolina.
Syracuse basketball on Saturday has an opportunity to pick up a quadrant-one win when 'Cuse travels to No. 7 North Carolina. / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse basketball, this Saturday afternoon, has an opportunity to pick up a coveted quadrant-one win when the Orange travels to No. 7 North Carolina for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

It won’t be easy, though. The Tar Heels are playing about as well as any team around the country, and they’ve never lost to the ‘Cuse in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Earlier this week, Syracuse basketball (11-4, 2-2 in the ACC) held a 19-point edge over Boston College in the first half inside the JMA Wireless Dome, but the Eagles managed to take a small lead in the second half.

However, the Orange roster kept its composure and made some big plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor to come away with a 69-59 triumph over Boston College.

The ‘Cuse is 8-2 over it last 10 games. UNC (12-3, 4-0 in the ACC), meanwhile, has captured five straight victories, most recently a 67-54 conquest of in-state rival N.C. State on the road this past Wednesday night.

How to watch Syracuse basketball at No. 7 North Carolina.

The Orange and the Tar Heels will square off beginning at noon on Saturday, Jan. 13, from the Dean E. Smith Center. ESPN will air this enticing ACC contest, and coverage may also be available on fuboTV.

As I mentioned already, Syracuse basketball has yet to ever beat UNC on the road. In their all-time series together, the Tar Heels have won two in a row and are 16-6 overall against the ‘Cuse.

When I wrote this article, KenPom had North Carolina at No. 10 nationally, while the Orange checked in at No. 74. In NCAA NET rankings, UNC was No. 9, as compared to No. 73 for the ‘Cuse.

Bracketologists, at present, are placing the Tar Heels squarely on the No. 2 seed line. By and large, Syracuse basketball is on the outside of the proverbial bubble.

To date, the ‘Cuse doesn’t have any bad losses on its post-season resume. The team’s mid-December victory over Oregon on a neutral floor, currently, qualifies as a quadrant-one win, because the Ducks are No. 47 in the NET.

To move further into consideration for an invite to this spring’s NCAA Tournament, though, Syracuse basketball needs more quadrant-one triumphs.

North Carolina, in the 2023-24 season so far, has beaten Radford, Lehigh, UC Riverside, Northern Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma, Charleston Southern, Pittsburgh, Clemson and N.C. State.

The Tar Heels have lost to Villanova in overtime as well as to highly rated UConn, the defending national champions, and Kentucky.

The Orange defense will have its hands full with North Carolina’s prolific offense, and UNC often gives the ‘Cuse a lot of problems on the glass.

In 2023-24, the Tar Heels are scoring 82.5 points and allowing 69.7 points per game. Syracuse basketball averages 76.9 points and allows 70.7 points per meeting.

As a collective unit, North Carolina connects on 45.2 percent from the field, 75.6 percent from the free-throw line and 36.0 percent from beyond the arc. The ‘Cuse, conversely, hits on 45.0 percent from the field, 73.9 percent from the charity stripe and 32.1 percent from 3-point range.

The Orange holds slight statistical advantages in assists, blocks and steals per contest, while UNC grabs more rebounds and commits fewer turnovers per outing.

Arguably the Tar Heels’ two best players to date this season are senior guard RJ Davis and graduate student power forward/center Armando Bacot.

Davis, when I wrote this story, was leading the ACC in scoring at 20.3 points per game, and he makes nearly 40 percent of his attempts from deep.

Bacot is averaging 14.5 points and an ACC-leading 10.7 boards per affair, while connecting on 52.4 percent from the field.

With junior center Naheem McLeod sidelined indefinitely due to a right foot injury, an unfortunate development that Syracuse basketball announced on its X page Wednesday, I do have concerns about Bacot going nuts in the interior.

Sophomore big man Maliq Brown, who has been playing lights out of late, will have to be spectacular against North Carolina if the ‘Cuse has any realistic shot at upsetting UNC on the road, and we’ll have to see if other Orange reserve centers see extended minutes versus North Carolina given that McLeod is unavailable.

Another UNC player to monitor is freshman guard Elliot Cadeau, a former Syracuse basketball recruiting target. Cadeau is averaging 22.7 minutes per game and leads UNC in doling out 3.5 assists per contest.

After the ‘Cuse goes toe to toe with the Tar Heels, the Orange will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for an ACC rematch. The tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm, with television coverage on ESPN2.

On December 30, in their first meeting of 2023-24, Syracuse basketball rallied from an eight-point deficit at halftime to conquer the Panthers by eight points on the Hill.

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