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Syracuse vs. Louisville preview: Five things to watch

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Can the Orange turn this thing around?

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It is time to panic for Syracuse Orange fans. No the Orange weren’t supposed to beat the Virginia Cavaliers, but now they are stuck with only eight games left to boost their weak resume for a bid to the big dance.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse
Can Oshae Brissett find his shot for this final push?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange will look to end their two-game losing streak on the road against the Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals are currently 16-7 and 4th in the ACC, so this will not be an easy win in the slightest for the reeling 15-8 Syracuse Orange.

Will the Syracuse offense be found?

Playing against the stifling Cavaliers defense didn’t help, but the Orange’s offense was missing once again, this time putting up its least amount of points on the season (44). The Syracuse “big three” combined for 35 points on 13-45 shooting as they struggled again to generate any perimeter looks. The Cardinals don’t have the strongest defense, giving up 69.6 points per game, but the Orange will need to find some perimeter offense if they want to come away with an impressive ACC road win.

Frank Howard’s struggles

The junior point guard has shown a lot of growth this season in his increased role, but Howard has reverted back to his old ways the past three games. Howard is shooting 23% over his last three outings, and his 10 combined turnovers have hurt the team too. The Orange need Howard to penetrate the lane and hit perimeter shots if they want to reach their full potential as a team.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse
Where is Frank Howard?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tyus Battle’s perimeter struggles

Howard isn’t the only problem from the Orange’s backcourt, as Tyus Battle’s inability to hit the three ball has hurt the Orange find any spacing in the half court. Battle is shooting a combined 6-20 from deep over his last three games, which has really stunted any growth from the Syracuse offense. Battle is Syracuse’s best player, and they need him to play like it over their last eight games if they want to be dancing in March.

Boxing out Ray Spalding

The Syracuse Orange are as tall as it gets in terms of their rotation players, but they have given up a lot of offensive rebounds in a bunch of their games this year. Ray Spalding averages 9.2 rebounds a game this year, so boxing him out will be crucial to giving the Orange a shot to win this one late. He has had 10 double digit rebounding games, so Syracuse will need to not only focus on guarding the perimeter, but they will need to defend the glass too.

The lack of production from the centers

The Orange have gotten nearly nothing from their two centers over the last two games, so they will need them to show up to prevent Spalding from dominating the game. Paschal Chukwu has two points and seven rebounds combined over the past two games, and Bourama Sidibe hasn’t helped too.

Sidibe didn’t play in the last game, but he followed up his breakout game against Pittsburgh with a three points, four rebounds outing in a loss to Georgia Tech. No one is asking the two big men to dominate on offense, but the Orange need their centers to show up in the paint for this final push.