Syracuse opens ACC play when it travels to Indiana to play Notre Dame. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng gave their predictions.
BRAD BIERMAN: Over the last 19 days, Syracuse (9-4, 0-0) has played a grand total of three games going 2-1 with the loss to current No. 20 Buffalo, and possessing some momentum after a downright offensive explosion, at least as defined for this year’s squad so far, netting 81 points in the Dec. 29 win over St. Bonaventure.
This afternoon’s road opponent to kickoff 2019 ACC play, Notre Dame (12:00 p.m. ET/ACC Network), played four days ago in a New Year’s Day matinee being drubbed in the second half of its league opener, an 81-66 defeat to No, 10 Virginia Tech.
The takeaway is not only is Virginia Tech a team that will contend for the top four spots in the ACC this season, but that Notre Dame (10-4, 0-1) turned the ball over nine times in the first half to play catch up against the hot-shooting Hokies, and ND’s own offensive struggles could not make up the difference.
For the Orange, one spotlight is on this week’s ACC Player of the Week, Tyus Battle, and his own red-hot shooting and 18 ppg scoring average. Battle will look to extend his perfect 8-for-8 shooting streak from the Bonnies game, while SU needs to again spread out the scoring inside and out.
Syracuse is 7-4 in games played at the Joyce Center/Purcell Pavilion since Mike Brey took over in 2001, and with the ‘Cuse zone defense effective in the second half causing the Irish discomfort and Battle and Marek Dolezaj standing out, Syracuse wins its ACC opener 77-70.
WES CHENG: This is not the Notre Dame team we’ve come to know in the last few years.
Gone are stalwarts Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and Martin Geben. Then, the Irish lost Elijah Burns, who transferred, Rex Pflueger to an ACL tear, and Robby Carmody to a shoulder injury.
The loss of Pflueger was particularly tough for Notre Dame because at 6-foot-6, he was their best defender capable of guarding wings and guards, and was also a reliable threat from downtown, shooting at nearly a 39 percent clip.
That has put a lot of pressure on junior guard TJ Gibbs to produce, and though Gibbs is averaging 14.5 ppg, he’s also shooting a career-low 36.0 percent from the field even while averaging a career-high 13.3 field goal attempts per game.
That led to a shocking loss to Radford early in the season and then losses in non-conference play to Oklahoma and UCLA. Though the Irish played competitively with Virginia Tech early in their ACC opener, the Hokies ended up pulling away for an 81-66 win.
I expect Syracuse to struggle early in a close game before something similar happens in a 72-63 win.