Well, they’ve done it again. The Orange has revived it season as it has done so often this year with yet another unlikely win. After picking up its first win against a ranked opponent, SU heads to the ACC Tournament as the 11 seed. With that, Syracuse gets its third matchup of the season against Wake Forest. The Orange and Demon Deacons split their season series with the home teams taking each game.
But once the conference tournaments come around, anything goes. Just take a look at the Big Ten Tournament where Rutgers made a run and challenged the best of the best in the conference.
Syracuse will need a Rutgers-esque run if it wants to go dancing this tournament, but the path is far from easy. Realistically, two wins at Barclays should be good enough for the Orange to go dancing.
However, Syracuse can’t afford to look ahead of itself. Wake Forest has posed problems for SU this season for a couple of reasons. The Demon Deacons can shoot the three and also can match the Orange’s height.
In both of their games this season, Wake Forest has shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. There are also multiple weapons from deep for the Demon Deacons. Bryant Crawford has lit up the SU defense in both meetings, going 4-for-9 from three in both games. The Orange has games where it struggles to identify the shooter and gets killed by a three point barrage. That cannot happen in a one-and-done format where the season is on the line.
Along with Wake Forest’s three point proficiency, they are also one of the few teams that can stack up with SU’s height. The Demon Deacons countered 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu with lineups featuring multiple seven-footers. Center Doral Moore caused problems for SU in both games, specifically the most recent one where Moore went for 16 points and 16 rebounds. Couple Moore with Olivier Sarr and the Orange all of a sudden is severely undersized on the floor. Syracuse has only won one game where it outrebounded its opponent. That came last game against Clemson, but SU also made minimal mistakes throughout the game.
If Syracuse can get past Wake Forest, the biggest game of the season comes against a now demoralized North Carolina team on the heels of a second half collapse against arch-rival Duke. If the Orange can win this one, it likely won’t have to sweat out Selection Sunday like it has the past two seasons. This isn’t your typical uber strong and physical UNC team, but there are plenty of brains on this Tar Heels team. Sure Syracuse played Carolina close, but that came at home with a lot of Tar Heel mistakes down the stretch. The final score was not indicative of how much UNC dominated the majority of the game. If Syracuse cannot find a way to stop Theo Pinson, it won’t stand a chance against a crafty Tar Heels team. But if SU can slow down Pinson and company at the high post, then the Orange should be celebrating instead of sulking this March.