ACC Basketball Introductions: How Syracuse Matches Up With North Carolina

USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina is next in our primer series giving Orange basketball fans a heads up on what to expect from the new conference opponents.

Put your angry face on. UNC picked a fight. Already.

Ok, so maybe not the entirety of UNC, but someone at the Tar Heel Blog sure did.

Remember how we took some friendly jabs at John Thompson, Jr. and Rick Pitino in last week's Miami preview? Totally normal. That's expected between sworn enemies.

Last time I checked, we don't have the kind of history with North Carolina that makes it alright to do that. Why, then, is there an article full of cheap shots directed at James Arthur Boeheim? As if that weren't enough, they took a stab at The Post-Standard, too. SRSLY? Come on. What did the P-S do to you? It may be a local newspaper, but it's our local newspaper. Hands off.

In times like this, I am reminded of advice a wise man Aaron Sorkin once gave us (at the 13:42 mark):

You're too good for gossip and snark. You're too good for intolerance. And...you're too good to think that people who disagree with you are your enemy. Unless they went to Georgetown, in which case they can go to hell.

We could substitute "UNC," you know. Yea. It's like that. Watch it, Tar Heels. You don't want no part of this.

2012-2013 Record: 25-11 (12-6)

Conference Ranking: 3rd

Historical Notes: Syracuse is 3-4 against the Heels all time, with the most recent win having been Wes Johnson's coming out party at Madison Square Garden during the 2009-10 season.

What They're Known For: Five NCAA championships, 18 final fours, 17 ACC tourney championships...and a partridge in a pear tree. Under head coach Roy Williams, the offense is balanced instead of being guard or post-oriented. Their smart point guards facilitate the up-tempo play, and dominant post players finish around the rim. Oh, and they hate that other blue team with a passion of a thousand burning suns.

Season Summary: Even though UNC won games they should have (for the most part), a 25-11 season isn't "normal." The Heels had some tough out-of-conference games against Butler and No. 1 Indiana, and fell victim to the hurricane that was, well...the Hurricanes. Three times. The last was in the ACC Tournament Championship game. The Tar Heels' season ended in the second third Round of 32 after losing to the region's top seed, Kansas.

Key Players:

Marcus Paige (8.2 PPG/2.7 RPG/4.6 APG). It was sink or swim for last year's starting point guard, who was only a freshman. He took time to adjust, but improved as his confidence went up, earning a spot on the All-ACC Freshman Team. He's especially aggressive on defense, but won't hesitate to drive against the likes of Alex Len, either.

James Michael McAdoo (14.4 PPG/7.3 RPG/1.5 SPG). With no dominant center, the 6-9 forward often played out of position and felt forced to shoot. A lot. This explains his 14+ average despite making an abysmal 32% of his jump shots (44.5% overall). Next year will be different when sophomore center Joel James plays a larger role. Expect McAdoo's efficiency to skyrocket with that support.

P.J. Hairston (14.6 PPG/4.3 RPG/1.4 APG). Hairston, we have a problem. Once the 6-6 guard became a starter, UNC clicked. He brings energy, solid defense, and shoots just under 40% from deep.

Then, he was suspended indefinitely after what has been dubbed the "Summer of P.J." Why so ominous? Two guesses: (1) Hairston not playing registers right around DEFCON 1 on the Heels' Holy Sh*t-O-Meter; and (2) This thing is complicated. He's expected to play, but no one knows when, so putting everything in one spot was smart.

Personnel Changes: UNC lost guard Dexter Strickland (7.8 PPG/2.4 RPG/4.2 APG) to graduation and Reggie Bullock (13.9 PPG/6.5 RPG/2.9 APG) to the draft. The 6-7 guard/forward combo would have been a senior. The only incoming guys are the three freshmen: Nate Britt (6-0, guard), Isaiah Hicks (6-8, forward), and Kennedy Meeks (6-9, center). It's about time one of these schools kept it simple. Jeez.

2013-2014 Potential: Depends on when Hairston gets on the court. With him, the Heels are dangerous. He spreads the floor by drawing defenders, which creates scoring opportunities. Without him, UNC is down three significant contributors from last year's squad, and there's no indication that the remaining players have improved enough to make up for that. So, let's say he's out 10 games. (Read: this number is purely hypothetical. I chose it because I'm writing this, and not you. That's it.) The Tar Heels would've played Michigan State and Kentucky, but that's it for the scary non-cons. Conference play would still be a few games away. There won't be permanent damage.

Let's be serious - even if UNC completely implodes until Hairston returns, you know the polls and the selection committee will take that into consideration. At the end of the day, this team is on the rise.

Orange Match-up: The Tar Heels could give the Orange a run for its money in the size department. According to the Syracuse and UNC rosters, some of these guys are brick walls. Roy Williams needs his big men to step up, and he knows it. While Syracuse's front court is more experienced, it's not super consistent. They have to be intense from start to finish, and be prepared to fight Joel James for every rebound. Why him? He's 6-10/280. That's why.

The Heels didn't shoot well last year, but that was a fluke. Nevertheless, their percentages will take a little dive in the first part of this game, until they get used to how we roll. Thank you, zone. Expect them to adjust quickly, though, so Syracuse can't get complacent or be low on energy. Normally, I'd say "no problem," but then I looked up the tip-off time...damn.

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