Syracuse basketball roundtable: How to beat North Carolina, SU’s prior clashes with UNC and how SU impressed against Virginia


first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 28, 2016 at 11:51 pm Syracuse (23-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) will face its second straight conference foe in the NCAA Tournament in North Carolina (32-6, 14-4) on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. in NRG Stadium in Houston. The Tar Heels have beaten the Orange twice this season, but the only matchup between the teams that matters anymore is the upcoming one, which will send either SU or UNC to the NCAA Championship game.Check out what our beat writers said about the matchup and Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament run so far.1. What would Syracuse have to do to beat North Carolina?Sam Blum: We’ve seen Syracuse play North Carolina twice this year and it got beaten two different ways. The first time was a late run when the Orange couldn’t keep the ball out of the high post, leading to many easy dunks. The second, Syracuse didn’t play nearly as efficient on offense, but hung around in the categories that it needed to hang around in. If SU wants to get the upset win, it needs to force UNC to take perimeter shots — the Tar Heels really struggle with that. SU has to hang in on the rebounding battle and another monster effort from Malachi Richardson is tough for any team to handle.Jesse Dougherty: Defend the short corner, plain and simple. In the Sweet 16, Syracuse was torched by Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer in that spot and then Virginia’s Mike Tobey was similarly effective from there albeit in a different way. North Carolina has a few players who can thrive in that spot — namely Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks — and the Orange zone will break down early and often if it doesn’t keep a close eye on the short corner. Hicks is the biggest problem here, as he repeatedly battered SU inside during its Jan. 9 meeting in the Carrier Dome to help UNC pull away in dunking fashion.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMatt Schneidman: In short, a lot. But that was the case against another top-seeded ACC opponent and Syracuse was able to pull off the upset. This time, the Orange will have to slow down a scorching hot Marcus Paige and the four big men who have scored a combined 105 points in two matchups against SU this season. That would be the versatile Justin Jackson, the brutes (Hicks and Kennedy Meeks) and the sparkplug, Johnson. That’s a team that scores a lot of points, more than Virginia, and more than any team Syracuse has managed to keep to 62 points or less in its first four Tournament games. The zone will have to be airtight, not like the opening half against the Cavaliers, and limit the high-low attack it fell victim to against Gonzaga and UVA.2. Are the two previous matchups encouraging or discouraging and why?S.B.: I would definitely say they’re encouraging, because they were both winnable. SU just ran out of steam in the first game, but was equal or better than UNC for 35 minutes. If Michael Gbinije decides to take a 3 instead of driving to the basket late in that second game, it might have had a different result. The mere fact that the Orange kept it close on the road is a testament to how possible this win actually is. And it’s always hard to beat a team three times in one season.J.D.: I would lean toward encouraging, especially since Syracuse was one glaring defensive adjustment away from sticking with the Tar Heels in the Carrier Dome and then was within one possession in the final minute at the Dean E. Smith Center in late March. It wouldn’t be a futile argument to call the Tar Heels the best team in the country, and the fact that the Orange twice played them close gives me reason to believe that it could keep this game close. And in March, sometimes that’s all you need to do before the end of the game writes itself.Logan Reidsma | Senior Staff PhotographerM.S.: Syracuse was in both contests late against the Tar Heels this season, but the Orange wasn’t able to clear the hump as it did against Virginia on Sunday. It’s encouraging that SU has proven it can hang with North Carolina, one of the best offensive teams in the country, but close isn’t enough in March. The discouraging part has been how UNC’s frontcourt has dominated the Orange in both matchups, especially Johnson. If Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon allow 17 rebounds to one frontcourt beast like Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the Orange could be in for a real treat once you add on Hicks and Meeks to the best frontcourt left in the NCAA Tournament.3. What was the most impressive part of Syracuse’s win over Virginia?S.B.: Usually it’s really tough for SU to get wins if only one player does well — see: Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse in February. But that was the case on Sunday. It came back against a team that is impossible to come back against. It changed tempo on a team that controls it to a tee. Those are very impressive aspects of the SU win. To be dead in the water and be staring at the end of the season, only to have one player put the team on their back and carry SU to a win? That speaks volumes about what is possible for the Orange as it heads to Houston this week for the Final Four.J.D.: The way Syracuse’s wings worked around weak-side flare screens to close out on corner shooters … Just kidding. It was that damn comeback. How could it be anything else? The way the Orange tricked Virginia into playing at warp speed was especially impressive, especially when a few slowed-down possessions is probably what separates the Cavaliers from coasting to an easy win. But that’s not what happened. Not even close, and SU rode mayhem to what Jim Boeheim called the best comeback of his coaching career.M.S.: This one is pretty simple and it’s a one-word answer, Richardson. The freshman has responded well to low-scoring first halves this season, but Sunday was a different animal. He singlehandedly kept the Orange afloat with gutsy shot after gutsy drive after gutsy pull-up in the face of arguably the country’s best defender. He certainly didn’t play like a freshman in tying his season high with 23 points against the same team his previous high came against, but Syracuse should hope it doesn’t have to rely on mostly one player to carry it down the stretch against a team that can push the tempo equally as fast, or even much faster, than Syracuse did to disrupt Virginia. Commentslast_img

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