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Syracuse’s postseason has arrived, and the Orange’s NCAA Tournament fate will be decided by their performance in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The Orange have a bye in the first round, when the league’s bottom-six teams will play on Tuesday. Syracuse (15-8, 9-7 ACC) opens the ACC Tournament in the second round against North Carolina State (13-9, 9-8) on Wednesday at 12 p.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The bracketology consensus is that Syracuse needs to win against NC State to have a chance to get an at-large bid.
Here’s what to know about the Wolfpack before the Orange play them for the third time this season.
Syracuse leads 9-6
Last time they played
Syracuse traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina on Feb. 9 and beat NC State 77-68. It was the second meeting between the two teams after the Orange came back from a double-digit deficit in the first meeting two weeks prior. Syracuse won the second meeting because of its hot shooting night from beyond the arc and ability to turn over the Wolfpack’s offense. Alan Griffin led the Orange with 22 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3, and Syracuse made 9-of-19 from long range. SU forced 20 turnovers and pulled away late because Griffin, Kadary Richmond and Quincy Guerrier all registered multiple steals.
The Orange won both the rebounding and 3-point-shooting battle even though they’re worse than the Wolfpack in both of those metrics on the year.
Syracuse has a 55% chance to win, with a projected score of 74-73.
The NC State report
NC State is one of the hottest teams in the entire conference entering postseason play. The Wolfpack haven’t lost since Feb. 13, a 16-point home defeat against Duke. At that point, NC State was 8-9 overall and 4-8 in the conference. The team earned a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament by winning five straight games, beating Virginia, Wake Forest and Notre Dame once and Pittsburgh twice.
The Wolfpack have made 36.1% of their 3-pointers this season, 65th-best in the nation. Their defense ranks 76th in efficiency, but they are top-35 at blocking shots and generating steals. NC State lost its best player, Devon Daniels, for the year in January but still boasts one of the deepest rotations in the conference. Nine players average 15 or more minutes per game.
The Wolfpack have a mix of veteran upperclassmen, including sharpshooter Braxton Beverly (41.4% from 3), center Manny Bates (11th-best block rate in the nation) and top offensive rebounder D.J. Funderburk. They partner that with freshmen Shakeel Moore and Cam Hayes in the backcourt.
How Syracuse beats the Wolfpack
Syracuse wasn’t better at shooting 3s than the Wolfpack over the course of the season, but the Wolfpack’s perimeter defense isn’t that good, either. When SU has Richmond and Buddy Boeheim in the game, they’ll have a size advantage over both NC State guards. Syracuse has to play NC State even beyond the 3-point arc to have a chance to win this game. It’s a toss-up on paper, but the Orange can hope Buddy continues his recent shooting form and that the zone traps work again.
A major reason the Orange won in Raleigh was that they forced 20 turnovers and their zone pinched down to take away the foul-line area. NC State head coach Kevin Keatts is likely to make adjustments to that ahead of the upcoming meeting, but the Orange’s defense on the interior will be a major factor in this, as it has been all season.
If SU can keep pace with NC State on the glass and from 3, they should win this game. If NC State finds success from beyond the arc, though, the Orange’s quest for an NCAA Tournament bid could end on Wednesday.
Player to watch: Jericole Hellems, Forward, No. 4
Jericole Hellems had one of his best games of the season against Syracuse in the first meeting between the two teams. Hellems finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists on 9-of-19 shooting. The Orange held Hellems to 11 points and four rebounds in the second meeting, a part of their improved overall defense. Hellems plays more than 30 minutes per game and shoots 40% from 3-point range, but he’s prone to turnovers that the Orange could look to exploit once again. He will look to attack the Orange’s forwards and Marek Dolezaj in the middle when he’s not shooting 3s.
Stat to know: 71%
There’s a saying that it’s hard to beat the same team three times in one season. But the numbers don’t necessarily back that up. From 2010-20 in college basketball, teams are 905-363 in the third game against the same opponent, which is a 71% win rate.
The post Opponent preview: What to know about NC State before ACC Tournament opener appeared first on The Daily Orange.