Tonight, the Syracuse Orange begin a critical stretch of games that could go a long way in determining if the team makes it into the NCAA Tournament. First up, a date with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Carrier Dome. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Irish enter the game with a 14-5 record (5-2 in ACC play), having won five of their last six contests. Notre Dame is averaging 79.2 points per game and ranks seventh nationally in field goal percentage (.499). They may be without leading scorer Demetrius Jackson, though they do have four other players averaging double figures to make up for it.
Will the Orange get another critical, resume-making win? Let's see what everyone thinks.
Syracuse 75 - Notre Dame 68
Syracuse has been playing its best basketball of the season lately and I look for the Orange to carry its solid play at home against Notre Dame. The Irish is without its leading scorer and assist man in Demetrius Jackson -- Jackson would be able to attack the zone off the bounce and shoot over the zone so this bodes well for Syracuse (wishing D Jack a speedy recovery, however). The Orange need to limit Zach Auguste -- who averages a double-double -- and Bonzi Colson inside. Syracuse's biggest weakness is its inside presence on the defensive end. SU also needs to close out on shooters V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia and Matt Ryan and contest jumpshots. I expect Colson and Auguste to have a great night inside but I ultimately think Syracuse boasts enough offense to compensate.
Syracuse 75 - Notre Dame 71
Look for the Irish to try and force the ball into Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson early and often. Syracuse will need to play a lot better on the interior than they did against Virginia. In the end, I think this is another game where Trevor Cooney hits early shots and opens up the offense for the rest of the Orange.
Syracuse 74 - Notre Dame 71
If there's reason for SU fans to be especially concerned about this one, it's because the Fighting Irish score a lot of points and they play well on the road. But the Orange should be able to make shots -- Notre Dame is one of the worst teams nationally in 3-point defense. And most importantly: Demetrius Jackson isn't playing. Given that, Syracuse should have the upper hand.
Syracuse 72 - Notre Dame 65
The loss of Demetrius Jackson will be too much for the Irish to overcome. Notre Dame is going to look to pound the ball inside with Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson. On the offensive side of the ball, Syracuse needs to make it a priority to get both these players in foul trouble. I think the Orange's perimeter shooting will ultimately be too much for an undermanned Notre Dame team on the road.
Notre Dame 71 - Syracuse 70
First of all, I really didn't like the fact that we were all predicting a Syracuse win. That's just asking for trouble. Second, I don't know, I guess I'm a #disloyalidiot but I don't quite trust this to close out a win like this yet. SU has proven itself capable of dominating lesser foes but it hasn't shown a huge ability to beat talented teams consistently. I know ND won't have it's star but it's ND so you know some random guy is going to show up out of nowhere to hit eight three-pointers.
Now it's your turn...