Not many 12-2 teams squaring off against a 7-6 squad garner underdog status. But that is the exact situation Syracuse finds itself in for Wednesday’s matchup against Wake Forest. The Orange is coming off of arguably its most dominating performance of the season, a defense-led 68-56 win over Virginia Tech, while the Demon Deacons enter the final leg of a brutal three game stretch stretch that previously featured losses against No. 21 Tennessee and No. 13 North Carolina.
Sure, the Orange is on the road for this one and it’s never easy to win away from home in college basketball, but plain and simple: the Deacons have really struggled this season. Danny Manning’s team entered ACC play with five losses on its resume, including dropping games against Georgia Southern, Liberty (both of which were at home), and Drake. They have also barely scratched out wins against Illinois and UNC-Greensboro (THERE IS NO VALUE TO PLAYING IN GREENSBORO. NONE.).
So while Wake Forest has bad losses at home, Syracuse has been solid away from the Dome. SU is 2-1 away from Central New York, with the only loss coming in a neutral site game against then No. 2 Kansas.
Another reason Syracuse should be favored in this one is Oshae Brissett. I really think there is some merit to the infamous “Dome-Vision” affecting his shooting. At home, Brissett is just 8-for-36 (22.2 percent) on three-point attempts. Meanwhile, that number spikes 11.1 percent away from the Dome (all of which have been NBA stadiums), with a pretty considerable sample size. In Syracuse’s three road/neutral site games, the freshman has taken one-third of his three pointers and is 6-for-18 (33.3 percent). This begs two situations to monitor in this game: will Brissett come out attacking from three early on and how effective will he be in a true college arena setting?
The one area where Syracuse might be vulnerable is in the size department. Bourama Sidibe is likely out again and Wake Forest has a pair of seven-footers in its frontcourt arsenal. Expect either Doral Moore or Olivier Sarr to be on the floor at all times for the Demon Deacons. However, neither is an elite rebounder. In fact, Wake Forest is tied for 220th in the nation in rebounding, while SU is 11th. The keys for Syracuse to capitalize in this department are Paschal Chukwu staying out of foul trouble to match Wake’s size and both Oshae Brissett and Matt Moyer continuing to play bigger than their 6-foot-8 frames suggest.
All signs point to Syracuse being the superior team, but then again, this is college basketball.