Syracuse will play NC State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m. in Greenboro, NC. Here are some of the storylines heading into the game:
No. 1 seed still up for grabs
Does anyone want the one seed in the east? Up until a few weeks ago, everyone just presumed that Syracuse wouldn’t have to leave New York State on its way to the Final Four. But with four losses in five games, including two to ACC doormats Georgia Tech and Boston College (both at home), the Orange seemed to fall completely out of the picture. But SU finished its season on a winning note with a convincing win at Florida State. Since then, Kansas and, most recently, Villanova, have been projected as possible one seeds, joining Wichita State, Florida and Arizona. But Kansas lost to West Virginia last week, and Villanova was eliminated by Seton Hall in the Big East tournament yesterday. That has re-opened the door for Syracuse to possibly slide into the final No. 1 seed, depending on their performance in the ACC tournament.
NC State defeats Miami to advance to quarterfinals
The path to an ACC championship will certainly not be easy. The Orange will start with NC State tonight, a team that nearly beat them at the Carrier Dome back in mid-February. After that, potential matchups with Duke and Virginia loom. But that, as coach Jim Boeheim would tell you, is looking too far into the future. For now, the Orange will again have to try to contain ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren, who led the league in scoring at 24.8 points per game. Warren was right on his season average—24 points—in a 67-58 win over Miami. The Wolfpack led for most of the second half, but had trouble putting the game out of reach. The Hurricanes actually took a 53-51 lead with 3:51 left, but the Wolfpack went on a 12-0 run from there to take control for good. The win makes North Carolina State 20-12 on the season, but still in search of a resume win. Syracuse will present them with that opportunity.
Syracuse struggles after win over NC State
Syracuse and NC State met on Feb. 15 at the Carrier Dome, with the Orange escaping with a 56-55 win to improve to 25-0 on the season. While the win kept the Orange perfect at the time, it was also a foreshadowing of things to come. The Orange shot just 35 percent from the field and 2 of 12 from beyond the arc, and needed a last minute steal from Rakeem Christmas that led to a CJ Fair go-ahead layup with 6.7 seconds left. It was the fourth of nine straight games where the Orange didn’t break 70 points, and was ultimately Syracuse’s final home win of the season. Syracuse would lose four of five games from there, struggling mightily from the offensive end. Part of the reason for the offensive futility happened because of a back injury to the team’s leading rebounder, Jerami Grant. Grant was limited against Maryland and Virginia, and didn’t play against Georgia Tech. His return in the season finale against Florida State on Sunday coincided with a return to form for the Orange. His 16 points and 8 rebounds led Syracuse to a 74-58 win over the Seminoles in a game where the Orange shot 48 percent from the field, while holding Florida State to 38 percent shooting. That momentum may be enough to help Syracuse in its attempt to reclaim the top seed in the East.