Syracuse will try to open 2020 with a win (4:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) on Saturday at the Carrier Dome against Notre Dame. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
SAUGAT SEN: Notre Dame comes into Saturday’s contest having won three of their last four, with the one loss coming in a 62-60 loss to Indiana in the Crossroads Classic in December.
In that game, Armaan Franklin drained a 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds left in a comeback win for the Hoosiers.
The Orange and the Irish are statistically similar, but the Irish pull down five more boards on average. John Mooney is a big reason for that, as he averaging a double double this season. The Orange big men are going to have their hands full against him, who is leading the NCAA in rebounds at 13.5 per game.
Expect this one to be close, but the Irish tend to change up their defense often enough to throw off the Syracuse shooters. The Orange will continue to struggle to grab rebounds, and if the shots are not falling, this will get away quickly. I expect Mooney to have a big game and the Irish win this one 82-71.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 5-0): There are two proven methods of attacking the Syracuse zone. One is with ball movement that finds the open perimeter shooter. The other is a devastating inside presence.
Notre Dame possesses both of these things. The Irish come in to Saturday’s matchup with four players who shoot better than 34 percent from downtown. Guard Dane Goodwin leads the Notre Dame attack with 42.9 percent shooting from the field.
The Irish also lead the ACC in assists per game at 18.2 while committing just 9.6 turnovers per game. That stat on its own would be trouble for the Syracuse defense.
But, as my colleague Saugat mentions above, Syracuse also will need to contend with All-ACC caliber forward John Mooney, who averages 14.9 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Syracuse has been hurt by teams with strong inside games (see Penn State, Iowa or Georgetown), and Mooney is coming off a game against Alabama A&M where he hauled in 18 rebounds.
Then again, Notre Dame plays at Syracuse’s preferred offensive pace, preferring to settle into its halfcourt offense (209th in KenPom’s tempo rankings), and its adjusted offense is ranked 92nd compared to SU’s 77th on defense, so I don’t see either team being able to get much separation.
In a loss to Boston College earlier in the season, the Eagles held the Irish to 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.6 percent shooting from downtown. Notre Dame also committed an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers.
I see that kind of game happening for the Irish against SU’s zone, but another stellar game from Mooney is the difference in a tightly contested 65-64 win for Notre Dame.