The regular season is behind us, and now the Syracuse Orange turn their focus to making a little noise in the ACC Tournament. Syracuse tips off on Wednesday afternoon at noon, as they take on the Miami Hurricanes in an eight-versus-nine matchup.
There have been mixed reports regarding where the Orange stand in terms of the Big Dance, but a win over the Hurricanes would bode well for the Orange’s resume. The two teams met earlier this season, as Syracuse came out on top in a convincing 70-55 win. Miami is considered to be firmly in the field at this time.
Andrew White III and Tyler Lydon, Syracuse’s two “stars,” led the way as they combined for 44 points and 17 rebounds. Having White and Lydon on their A-game will do wonders for the Orange, as the two forwards can impact the contest in a multitude of ways.
White’s hot shooting has returned at the perfect time, as he’s coming off arguably his best game in his short career in Orange (or perhaps in college overall). If he can spread the floor and create space for Lydon in the paint, SU could develop an inside-outside offense that can terrorize the Hurricanes.
Despite Syracuse’s prior success, both teams have changed since their first meeting. If the Orange want to meet North Carolina on Thursday, they are going to need to come out as if the head-to-head is split even. SU would be in great shape if the aggressive form of John Gillon showed up for all 40 minutes, hopefully rubbing off on the the younger players, too.
This is the time for Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson to prove themselves a bit. The two freshmen are entering the most pivotal part of the season, as their inexperience could be put on display due to the severity of the moment.
However, similar to what Malachi Richardson did for the Orange last year, Battle and Thompson can seize that moment by being aggressive and making smart plays down the stretch — or at worst, deferring to the team’s veteran leaders, as needed.
Miami showcases a talented team that is coming into this matchup ranked 25th. They have three players who averaged double figures in the regular season, the highest scorer being senior guard Davon Reed.
Reed is averaging 15.3 points per game, as his balanced scoring attack has led Miami all season long. The zone will need to be active from the tip for Syracuse to slow down Miami’s offense, and having eyes on Reed the moment he crosses half court will help facilitate that.
Starting off strong would be a plus for Syracuse, but if there’s one thing this team has proven this year it’s that they don’t quit. No matter what the scoreboard says, as long as there’s time on the clock this team has a chance for a win. However, against a top 25 team, it may be smart to limit the deficit and come out aggressive. Mounting double-digit comebacks only works for so long, especially against more talented competition.
The real season starts now, as Syracuse has a chance to boost their resume even more with another top 25 win. Similar to their previous marquee victories, the Orange are going to need one guy to take control when it matters most. The fun part about this team is that there are multiple players to call on there. It’s just a matter of who’s game it is.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who that guy is, as long as the Orange come out playing like there’s something on the line (which there is), everything should fall into place.