Syracuse will play North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament (9:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) on Wednesday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
Season Record 5-2
The task in front of the Syracuse is simple.
Win the ACC Tournament, or there will be no NCAA Tournament this year. Unfortunately, the team they are about to face is playing their best basketball right now.
This same UNC team torched the Orange for 92 points at the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago.
Defense at the top of the zone has been an issue for the Orange this season, and Cole Anthony took full advantage in that matchup, going 7 for 11 from 3.
UNC also carved Syracuse up on the inside with junior Garrison Brooks scoring 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Even with a losing record this season, this UNC team is full of NBA talent and they easily put away Virginia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Syracuse will have a tough time defending the Tar Heels on the outside and the inside and a home crowd in Greensboro, North Carolina will only make things tougher for the Orange.
The hopes for an NCAA tournament will end early in this one, with UNC topping Syracuse 86-72.
Season Record 18-4
North Carolina is playing the best basketball of the year, having won four of its last five games.
The Tar Heels kept their disappointing season alive in a rout of Virginia Tech on Tuesday, going on a 17-3 run to end the first half, and then outscoring the Hokies by 16 in the second half for a 22 point win.
Everything that went right for UNC against Syracuse also happened against Virginia Tech.
Excellent shooting? Check. The Tar Heels shot 46.4 percent from the field and 7-13 from downtown.
A huge mismatch on the boards? Check again. The Tar Heels finished +16 on the boards.
A stifling defense? Absolutely. The Hokies shot just 29 percent from the field and 10-36 from beyond the arc.
It’s hard to imagine that this was the same UNC team that lost seven in a row in the heart of ACC play. At 14-18, the Tar Heels will need to win the ACC Tournament to go to the postseason, and Syracuse is its next target.
When the teams first matched up in February, KenPom ranked the Tar Heels as a mediocre offense (117th). The four wins have shown that North Carolina has trended significantly upward on offense, and they are now ranked 62nd in that category.
That all leads me to predict that the Orange will be one and done again in the ACC Tournament, with a 76-69 loss to a team that Syracuse has struggled against since joining the conference in 2014.