The Syracuse Orange finally got their first ever win in the ACC Tournament, and they will now face the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round, as they look to get some revenge for their nail-biting loss earlier in the year.
The Tar Heels are the sixth seed in the ACC Tournament, but they are one of the most talented teams in the ACC, so this will be an extreme challenge for the Orange to advance even further in the nation’s toughest conference’s tournament.
Can Marek Dolezaj do it again?
You’d be lying if you thought going into the Wake Forest game that Marek Dolezaj would be Syracuse’s leading scorer. However, Dolezaj silenced the critics, as he finished with 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Dolezaj’s aggressive mentality gave the Orange the spark they needed, and they will need the same desire to score the ball from their freshman forward against the Tar Heels if they want to pull off the upset.
Can the Orange close it out late?
Syracuse nearly pulled off the upset a few weeks back against the Tar Heels, but a few questionable decisions in the final minutes costed them the game. Whether it be Oshae Brissett’s questionable corner three, or Paschal Chukwu’s top of the key turnover, the Orange’s carless mistakes ruined a dominant comeback.
With the lights as bright as they have been this season, Syracuse will need to make the right plays late in the game if they want to win, dare I say it, another ACC Tournament game.
Can the Orange attack the paint?
As we saw in the first round, the Orange can really score the ball when they are attacking the paint. Not only does it create easy looks inside, but it gives the inconsistent shooters on the Orange some more breathing room with the increased attention on the ball handler.
Tyus Battle got in a rhythm early against Wake Forest, because he was able to attack the paint which opened up his perimeter game. They will need their “big three” to drive the ball, because they become a much weaker team when they settle for contested jump shots late in the shot clock.
Containing Theo Pinson
Coming into the first meeting between these two sides, the Orange were hearing about how lethal the dynamic duo of Joel Berry II and Luke Maye was; however, it was Theo Pinson’s versatile skill set that killed the Orange for 40 minutes.
Pinson finished with 23 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, as his lanky body helped him weave his way through the Syracuse zone. Not only will it be crucial to contain Pinson’s scoring ability, but limiting his playmaking opportunities will be a key to coming away with the win.
Paschal Chukwu’s interior presence
Dolezaj wasn’t the only pleasant surprise against Wake Forest, as Chukwu’s interior dominance helped Syracuse pull away late. Chukwu’s ability to finish lob passes inside allowed the ball handler to keep the defense guessing all throughout the game. Chukwu will need to make the smart play and dominate the glass if he wants to help contribute to an upset win.