Will the Orange keep their winning streak going, extend their ACC record to 4-0 and prove they can maintain momentum without one of their starters? Or will the wheels come off as the fanbase burns everything to the ground?
Only one way to find out...
Syracuse 68 - Wake Forest 59
Syracuse is legitimately better than Wake, even sans Chris McCullough. But it will be interesting to see who responds in place of McCullough. And, even bigger picture, this injury will give more playing time to players that otherwise wouldn't see the court -- will that change the flow of what was expected this coming offseason? Will more run for the sophomores ensure ALL their return next year instead of one or two transferring like some thought? McCullough is a lock now to return, right? So, will Thomas Bryant truly be the odd man out? Fascinating subplots as we watch the Orange win another rock fight and improve to a nobody-talking-about-them 13-4, 4-0 record.
Syracuse 63, Wake Forest 58
With a quick turnaround after the McCullough injury, look for a close game as the Orange adjust to their new rotation. I would anticipate that with the shorter bench, Boeheim will want to slow the tempo and rely on the experience of Christmas and Trevor Cooney. Wake is a strong rebounding team, so Syracuse will have to control the glass to stay undefeated in ACC play.
Syracuse 78 - Wake Forest 65
The McCullough injury is all about depth and SU's lack of it. Wake Forest likes to push the tempo so this could be a problem for a team with no bench. But the truth is, I don't worry about fatigue as much as I worry about fouls - at least for one game ... cumulative fatigue later may be a factor - and I don't think Wake has the ability to expose Cuse's foul trouble like Duke, Louisville and UNC likely will. The tempo let's the Orange finally run a bit and I think we'll actually see a great offensive night.
Syracuse 69 - Wake Forest 61
McCullough's absence doesn't necessarily help Syracuse, but if Sunday's win is any indication, hot shooters can certainly help alleviate some concerns too. Rakeem Christmas will still command a ton of attention in the paint by himself, and that could continue to give space to either Trevor Cooney or Michael Gbinije on the perimeter. This one won't be easy as the Orange figure out their new offensive strategy. But a win's still expected, even if it takes awhile to finally pull away.
Syracuse 68 - Wake Forest 63
Losing freshman Chris McCullough is a curious proposition for SU basketball. I mean, he's basically been a non-factor in scoring for a month now, so what we're really losing is rebounding and big man depth. Really, we won't know the true impact of losing him until we find ourselves in a situation where Rakeem Christmas has three fouls early and we're in a dogfight. Maybe that happens tonight, maybe not. But it seems like the chances SU runs away with a game like they did with FSU are becoming more and more unlikely. I just don't feel safe predicting anything other than a close game. IF we win, so be it.
How about you?