Syracuse will try to snap a two-game losing streak when it hosts Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome (8:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network) on Saturday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brendan Blehar and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
Season Record 1-0
With Syracuse coming off two straight losses, Wake Forest is a welcome sight for the Orange. At this point in the season it is evident what both of these teams are.
Syracuse is a middle-of-the-road streaky team that desperately needs quality wins to polish up its NCAA Tournament resume. Wake Forest is currently tied for dead last in the ACC at 3-9 with a 10-12 record overall, and is trying to finish the season in a respectable way.
Where will the trouble lie for the Orange? The Deacons are fully healthy for the first time in nearly a month.
They have had plenty of players bitten by the injury bug, none more impactful than the 6’5” Chaundee Brown (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg). Brown was out from Jan. 4 to Feb. 1 with a “lower leg injury,” and played 12 minutes in a 56-44 win over Clemson.
The plan is to ease Brown back into the rotation, and that will likely continue against the Orange. The Deacons are a much stronger team with Brown on the court and if you’ve been watching Syracuse all year, you know they struggle against larger opponents.
If Syracuse can jump out to an early lead and let their home crowd rock the dome on a Saturday night game, they should be able to handle Brown and the Deacons easily. I predict that Syracuse gets back on the right track and handles the Demon Deacons in a 76-58 rout.
Season Record 12-2
Wake Forest comes in ranked 100th in KenPom’s rankings, buoyed by a slightly above average offense (70th in the country) and weighed down by a mediocre defense (149).
As a team, the Deacons shoot 34.2 percent from downtown, which works well against the zone. Five different players shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, with guard Andrien White (39.2 percent) as their most consistent threat.
But Wake Forest has had issues on defense all year. They’re currently giving up 72.1 points per game, 249th in the NCAA, and seven times in ACC play have given up 75 or more points.
That includes their most recent loss to No. 5 Louisville, where the Demon Deacons actually led by 12 at the half. But it was all Cardinals in the second half, as they outscored Wake Forest by 22 points, and finished the game shooting 48.0 percent from the field and 14 for 28 from downtown in a 86-76 final.
On the other side, Syracuse mostly kept pace with No. 7 Duke in a 97-88 loss. On the one hand, the 88 points boosted them in KenPom’s offensive rankings, where they currently sit at No. 17. On the other hand, the Blue Devils nearly hit the century mark, which has pushed SU down to 151 in adjusted defense, which is even worse than the 2016-17 team that missed the NCAA Tournament.
All of that will make for a high-scoring game, born out of a close first 30 minutes. You can wait to check the current game odds before making a guess at this one, but I’m coming right out and saying the Orange will pull away for a relatively comfortable 86-75 win.