Teams: Syracuse Orange (18-9, 7-7) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (21-7, 10-5)
Day & Time: Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
North Carolina blog: Tar Heel Blog
Rivalry: 9-4, UNC
Current Streak: 5, Carolina
First Meeting: Eventual 1957 national champ North Carolina beat Syracuse in the Elite 8, 67-58. Vinnie Cohen put up 25 points on his own (he’d averaged 24.2 per game that year), but the rest of the team couldn’t deliver against the dominating Heels. Jim Brown did not play with the team during his senior season, and his absence this year could’ve potentially made the difference between ‘Cuse making the Final Four or not.
Last Meeting: The Orange got stomped down in Chapel Hill, 85-68. Tyler Lydon put up 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, and added seven rebounds. Andrew White III (15 points) and Tyus Battle (13) were the only other Syracuse players to hit double figures. Despite being pretty cold from three, UNC still shot 51.5 percent from the field. North Carolina out-rebounded SU by 20 and dominated in the paint. It was not pleasant.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (42nd year, 1,022-366); North Carolina: Roy Williams (15th year, 419-122)
Coach Bio: Williams played a couple years for the Heels’ JV squad, then after four years started coaching at high school ball. Five years there got him back up to UNC, serving under Dean Smith. He was an assistant at his alma mater between 1978 and 1988, then grabbed his first college head coaching job with Kansas. He led the Jayhawks to a 418-101 record, but regularly fell short of the ultimate goal. He headed back to UNC to take over the program after losing to Syracuse in the 2003 title game. At UNC, he’s won three championships, lost another in excruciating fashion, taken home three ACC titles and presided over a period of academic scandal that resulted in no penalties for the Heels.
Last Year: North Carolina won it all, posting the same record they did the year before, but also getting to avoid Villanova in the title game. Though UNC failed to win the ACC Tournament, they still earned a 1-seed in the NCAAs. Once there, they played tight with most foes, save the opening round. Still, outlasting a very strong Gonzaga club is still a quality win to take the crown.
Last Game: The Heels won 93-76 at Louisville, making for their fifth consecutive victory overall. UNC was up nine at the break and never looked back. Five different players scored in double figures, led by Joel Berry II with 23 points. North Carolina’s dynamic offense hit 48.6 percent of their shots, including 44.4 percent from three. They also out-rebounded Louisville by 12. It got ugly, and this all sounds rather concerning for us.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Berry’s an easy pick and I wouldn’t blame you for going there. However, Luke Maye might have the exact skillset to terrorize the Orange for an entire evening. Maye averages 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, hits 51.4 percent of his shots, and is even very accurate from three (46.7 percent). That inside-outside game can create foul trouble for SU, and that should concern everyone greatly.
Jack Ferguson Memorial Random Three-Point Performance: They may not need it, but Brandon Robinson could certainly qualify. Playing under 10 minutes per game, he’s 8-of-19 from outside. Seems like the type of player that would somehow hit four or five against us, just because.
If Syracuse Wins: MARQUEE GODDAMN WIN. Wouldn’t seal the deal on an NCAA Tournament trip, but an upset over the Heels would go a very long way toward making that a reality when paired with the recent quality road victories. Would also be a great way to break this lengthy losing streak to UNC we’re in the middle of.
If Syracuse Loses: Not the most surprising thing in the world, and it wouldn’t kill us to lose to a top-15 squad, even at home. If it’s by 15-20, however, that should be cause for concern about how we keep up with other high-scoring teams (like Duke) still on the schedule.
Fun Fact No. 1: Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse squads haven’t really been able to beat Roy Williams of late. However, he’s done a pretty impressive job against coaches from the Roy Williams tree. Overall, he’s 11-3 against those coaches, with losses to Jerry Green (Tennessee), Kevin Stallings (Pitt) and Mark Turgeon (Wichita State). At least two of those sting quite a bit. Sorry, that’s not necessarily fun. Focus on the 11 wins.
Fun Fact No. 2: Syracuse and North Carolina have faced one another in the NCAA Tournament four different times, and interestingly (maybe interestingly?), all meetings have been in the Sweet 16 or later. They’ve split those meetings, though SU’s losses have come in the Elite 8 (1957) and the Final Four (2016), which bums.