Syracuse travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame on Saturday. Who will win the matchup between these former Big East foes? Our panel at The Juice Online weighed in…
Jim Stechschulte: Last year’s matchup with Notre Dame was crucial for the Orange. Syracuse started ACC play 0-4, but rose up with a 15-point win over a 14-5 Irish squad at the Carrier Dome for their fourth win in five games. That game, teamed with a win an earlier at Duke, helped SU start writing an NCAA-worthy resume.
This time, the game is in South Bend and the #15 Irish are even better, standing 16-3 after their first ACC loss at #10 Florida State Wednesday night. All three losses Notre Dame has suffered are to ranked teams, but they have not been running away from conference foes.
In spite of the Irish being a very effective offensive team, marked by being 12th in the NCAA in three-point shooting and four players averaging at least 13.9 points per game, their five ACC wins are by a total of 23 points. SU’s 2-3 zone has troubled Notre Dame in recent seasons. The Orange have won four straight in the series as ND has failed to crack 42 percent from the field in any game and has shot under 30 percent from three-point range. This year’s Irish squad also doesn’t exploit a main Syracuse’s weakness, as they are 13th in rebounding margin in ACC play (SU is 11th).
If the Orange are truly playing better, as Jim Boeheim mentioned following his squad’s loss at North Carolina on Monday, this is a game where an upset is more than just a possibility. Look for Tyler Roberson to have his way on the glass and the SU offense to click. It won’t be easy, but look for the Orange to sneak out a 74-70 win.
Wesley Cheng: As my esteemed college Jim mentions above, the Orange has dominated the recent matchups with Notre Dame because the the Irish have traditionally struggled against the zone. But, as we all know, this isn’t the typical stout 2-3 zone that we’ve come to expect during the Jim Boeheim era. SU hasn’t passed the eyeball test this season on defense, and the numbers back it up, as well.
According to KenPom.com, Syracuse’s adjusted defensive efficiency this season is 99.9, which ranks 90th in the country. By comparison, last season’s Final Four team was at an astonishing 93.0, which was good for 17th. To be fair, SU’s rating is calculated over the full course of the season, and doesn’t take into account the last five games, when there has been a dramatic improvement on the defensive front.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame has picked up right where it left off last year. This season, their adjusted offensive efficiency is 119.4, eighth in the country, which is actually one spot up from last season with it was 119.5.
This is all by way of saying that while the Orange has dropped off significantly, the Fighting Irish have chugged along with no issues. Notre Dame 85, Syracuse 71.