The Syracuse Orange welcome back James Arthur Boeheim at the same that they welcome the No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels to the Carrier Dome for a huge ACC showdown. The game is expected to draw 26,000 fans Saturday night. Tip is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The Orange are reeling, having lost their first three ACC contests, including an overtime letdown against Clemson earlier this week. Meanwhile the Heels come into the game at 14-2 and heavily-favored. Can SU pull off the upset and usher in a new era of good feelings just in time before the bottom drops out?
Syracuse 79, North Carolina 76
Yes, I realize these two teams are trending in exact opposite directions, but I think this particular matchup has upset potential. Saturday provides an opportunity for Syracuse to do something it hasn't done against a good team since the Battle 4 Atlantis: catch fire from 3-point range for an entire game. The Tar Heels are one of country's worst teams at defending the 3-pointer, allowing opposing teams to shoot 39.2% from beyond the arc. The chances should be there for the Orange. It'll largely be a matter of whether they take advantage of them.
North Carolina 83 - Syracuse 72
Emotion from Boeheim's return will give Syracuse a lift and the Orange will hang tough throughout the game. Eventually the inside force of Brice Johnson will be too much and Carolina will pull away late for a comfortable win.
North Carolina 79 - Syracuse 67
I would LOVE to tell you that Syracuse, energized by Jim Boeheim's return, takes it to one of the best teams in the country on Saturday night. Really, I would. But UNC's simply too good and SU has struggled far too much from the floor to keep up. Even if the Orange find their shooting stroke a bit, Brice Johnson seems poised to out-pace them. Syracuse gets beat on the boards (badly) yet again, and we all stare, blankly into the abyss.
North Carolina 85 - Syracuse 78
I think this will actually be a closer game than what most expect. Syracuse will be in just about every game from here on out. Jimmy usually has Roy's number, but this year's North Carolina team will be too strong down low. I predict Syracuse to have a good shooting night but ultimately North Carolina crushes Syracuse on the boards and leaves the Dome undefeated in ACC play.
North Carolina 82 - Syracuse 78
I really do think the team comes out with a major bump/fire/whatever with Boeheim back from suspension and the fans more than ready to get into the game. But UNC is so damn good. Marcus Paige hasn't been slowed down at all so unless G and/or Cooney find that next level by tomorrow, UNC will have too many weapons to beat Cuse with down the stretch.
Syracuse 78 - North Carolina 75
The Orange will come out firing with the return of coach Boeheim. He will have a game plan for how they can get the win. Seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney will lead the young Orange to their first win in ACC play. Syracuse needs to focus on rebounding if they want to win. They can't get out rebounded by 20 against UNC and expect to win the game. But I think the Orange will click on all cylinders and pick up a nice win.
Syracuse 81 - North Carolina 80
There is no reason to think the Syracuse team we've been watching for the past month can beat this Tar Heels squad. AND YET...I find myself feeling as though it's very possible. Now that Boeheim's back, I don't know if you can quantify what he'll bring to the table that was missing but it will be something. And remember, this was a team that was beating ranked opponents before he left. They have it in them. Assuming a couple breaks go our way, I see Syracuse shocking the nation and proving to everyone there's still life left in this team.
How about you...