Syracuse hosts North Carolina with ACC Tournament bid on the line

Syracuse will try to secure a bid to the ACC Tournament when it takes on North Carolina on Saturday:

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UNC is 9-2 overall and 2-2 in the ACC

IN SYRACUSE’S LAST GAME: Randy Staats scored a career-high nine points on five goals and four assists, and Kevin Rice chipped in with three goals and four assists as Syracuse defeated Cornell, 14-9. Staats went on a personal 4-0 run in the second half that turned a 8-6 deficit into a 12-6 lead, and Syracuse was never seriously challenged the rest of the contest. Faceoff specialist Chris Daddio, who struggled early in the season, had his third straight solid performance at the X, winning 14 of 26 faceoffs.

IN NORTH CAROLINA’S LAST GAME: North Carolina slipped by Virginia, 11-10, after R.G. Keenan scored with 2:28 in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie. The match was a closely contested game throughout, with the score tied at half at 5s and Carolina holding a slim 9-8 edge after three quarters. The Tar Heels actually trailed by one with under three minutes left, but Steve Pontrello scored on a cut with 2:33 left. Keenan then won the ensuing faceoff and single-handledly barreled down the field for the go-ahead score five seconds later. Joey Sankey led UNC with three goals and two assists.

» Related: Led by Randy Staats, Syracuse rolls past Cornell

SCOUTING THE BIG RED: North Carolina was an NCAA Tournament quarter-finalist last year, and has returned 31 of 39 letterwinners from last year, including seven starters. Joey Sankey leads UNC with 27 goals and 20 assists for a team-best 47 points. Goalie Kieran Burke has a 7.93 goals against average and has saved 56.9 percent of all shots.

ACC TOURNAMENT IMPLICATIONS: The game has plenty of implications for Syracuse making the four-team ACC Tournament. Currently, Syracuse is fifth in the ACC standings (1-3) behind Notre Dame (2-2) and North Carolina (2-2). A win against North Carolina would even the two team’s records at 2-3, and would also give Syracuse the tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Notre Dame will play Maryland (who is tied atop the standings at 3-1) in its final ACC regular season game on April 19, and Syracuse also holds the tiebreaker over the Irish. So a win could vault the Orange up to the No. 3 seed. However, a loss would drop the Orange to the consolation game that is played between the ACC’s fifth- and sixth-ranked teams. Regardless, with wins over Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, the Orange seem poised for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: The last time these two teams met was in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, with the Orange winning 19-12. SU has won three straight games against the Tar Heels, and leads the all-time series 11-6.

GAME INFORMATION: Saturday, April 14 at 6 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. TV: ESPNU.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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