Syracuse faces key test against North Carolina on Feb. 29

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Syracuse will face a tough test against the Tar Heels

On a day that doesn’t even reach the calendar three out of every four years, Syracuse may have its biggest test of the basketball season.

On Feb. 29, SU takes on a good but beatable UNC team (yes, I’m not a Tar Heel believer, but I’m in the minority). The Orange will either be coming off three straight losses, or will be coming off two losses to two good teams and a win against NC State.

Aside of the Duke win, SU hasn’t been able to hang with the big boys in ACC play, losing to UNC, Louisville, Virginia and Miami. Not to mention rival Pitt, twice.

Beating up on BC, Wake, FSU and other non top-tier ACC squads is all fine and well, but you need to prove you can beat the best if you want to be the best and make the NCAA tourney. Let alone win some games when you’re there.

» Related: Surprised? Syracuse basketball sits exactly where it was picked in ACC preseason poll

Now, the Orange will need to win more than just one game to solidify its tourney chances. The team is on the bubble. The margin for error is slim. Lucky for SU, there is no truly great team in the field this year. The minute last season ended, it was obvious there was no clear cut choice for a No. 1 team.

That UNC has held this role at one point this season should say something. The Tar Heels are a good team but they can be beat. Topping UNC would be a necessary resume booster for the Orange. It’s time for Cuse to show it can handle the spotlight and win when it needs to.

If SU is good (at least when they’re hitting 3s), then they can snag some more quality wins this season. But there are only so many games ahead. Cuse has to get back to winning, and it has to happen now.

I have faith. I was at SU’s game against BC a week and a half ago, and while it was against BC, the team was at its best when it was knocking down threes (surprise, surprise).

Not that this team is anything like SU squads of past years, but a common theme among great SU teams of recent years was their ability to beat the top teams. Just win. Get it done.

This team may not have a Wes Johnson, or a Michael Carter-Williams, or a Tyler Ennis. But Cuse has the ability to show that threes, and a bigger inside presence than most think, can get the job done. It just has to remember how.

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Rachel Marcus

About Rachel Marcus

Rachel is currently a Digital Production Assistant at ESPN. She has previously interned at SportsNet New York and has contributed to Dime Magazine and covered beats ranging from Big East basketball to men’s soccer for The Daily Orange. She is originally from Maryland. Follow her on Twitter @rachelnmarcus.
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