The theme for NC State this year has been to "get healthy so we can go on a run." With fewer than 10 games left in the regular season and coming off of almost a week's rest, it feels like this is the time if it is going to happen. The Wolfpack likely aren't going to be any more healthy than they are entering Tuesday night's game.
As of today, NC State is on the outside looking in of a NCAA tournament bid. The Pack has played (and struggled against) a very light ACC schedule thus far (as VaWolf has detailed). The only upside to that is that there are chances for resume enhancing wins left on the calendar. To have any shot at getting in (barring some ACC tournament run), it feels like the Pack needs to get 2 or 3 out of 5 between Syracuse, two against Duke, FSU and UNC while not having another bad loss. It's a tall order, and it starts Tuesday night.
When you play Syracuse under Boeheim, you know you are going to be facing a 2-3 zone defense. In most years, it is a tall line up with lanky players, and they're only going about 7 deep. Pace is normally plodding. Syrcause normally starts out slowly and improves through the year. This year is no different in those aspects.
The Orangemen lost some ugly early games to Oklahoma State, Penn State, Iowa, Georgetown and Virginia all by 10+ points. At one point they were 8-7 (1-3) in the ACC. Since then, they've been on a tear winning 7 out of their last 9 games. They're seemingly a team building some momentum.
Syracuse has 6 players that have played in all of their games, and no one beyond that has gotten more than 6 minutes. They are led by the trio of freshman PG Joseph Girard, junior SF Elijah Hughes and sophomore SG Buddy Boeheim. The three have averaged over 36 minutes per game over the Cuse's last five games. Syrcause is also the nation's 10th tallest team.
What's different about Syracuse this year is that they can score. That used to be the case when they were in the Big East and first joined the ACC, but it's been dormant a while. This year Syracuse sports the 21rst ranked offense nationally in efficiency, and are fairly solid in almost every category. If something stands out, it is that the Orange don't turn the ball over, and assist on an unusually high percentage of their shots. Syracuse is working the ball around, getting good shots, and not turning it over.
NC State has played well against Syracuse in recent years, but those were normally against offensively challenged team. This feels like a "trap" game stylistically for the Pack. The Pack's zone offense has looked pretty ugly, and "open" looks on offense will be from three. It makes me worried when the game plan is to win with the 3 ball. On defense, does the Pack have the discipline to play solid defense against a team with good guards without fouling?
While the Pack has shown little defensive pressure in most ACC games this year, it might be time to break out the press. Syracuse only goes 6 deep, so slowing it down and letting them set up their zone plays into what they want. The Pack will probably be better off getting out on the break and getting some easy baskets. Some pressure might slow the Syracuse offense down some.
KenPom likes the Cuse by 5 and gives Syracuse a 65% chance of winning.
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NC State Wolfpack40.00%
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