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Syracuse vs. Boston College preview: Five things to watch

Let’s hope Wednesday is nothing like last Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s game against the Virginia Tech Hokies was an eye opener for the Syracuse Orange (14-6, 5-2), as their offense and defense were exposed in a 78-56 rout. However, the Orange will need to quickly learn from their faults as they continue their road trip and head down to the Silvio Conte Forum to take on the Boston College Eagles (11-7, 2-4).

Wins on the road in the ACC are not easy to come by, so despite Syracuse’s superior record, SU’s going to need to play with better execution compared to Saturday’s showing if they want to pick up a much needed road win.

Can the ball movement return, please?

Part of what was so exciting about Syracuse’s three-game winning streak prior to Saturday’s beat down was the improved movement and passing on the offensive end of the ball. The Orange had a season-high 22 assists in their win over Miami, but that all ended against the Hokies. Syracuse was held to just seven assists Saturday night, as the high ball pressure limited the amount of movement the Orange could get in the half court.

The Eagles give up 72.3 points per game, so this should be a good chance for the Orange to bounce back and return to their recent improved play on offense. Look for Syracuse to try and get into their sets early before Boston College can get settled on defense.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The rebounding battle

The Orange and the Eagles are neck-and-neck in the rebounding battle in the ACC, as Syracuse sits at seventh with 41 rebounds per game, while Boston College is eighth and puts up 40.6 boards a contest. Coach Jim Boeheim is constantly mentioning the need for Paschal Chukwu to clean up the glass, as he already knows he can rely on Oshae Brissett to be an excellent rebounder at his position.

Syracuse needs to find a way to get easy shots on offense, and one way to do so is by cleaning up the defensive boards and getting out in transition.

Can Frank Howard keep up the aggressive play?

After struggling mightily in the early portion of his return from injury, Frank Howard has picked up his play as of late by attacking the paint and looking for his shot. Howard is averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 assists per game over his last six games, as the senior point guard has been reading opposing defenses better and seems to have his explosion back. The Orange need their quarterback to play his best basketball for the remainder of the season if they want to enter the Big Dance, and Wednesday’s matchup is another opportunity for Howard to showcase that he is truly back to his old ways.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Ky Bowman issue

The Eagles are led by junior Ky Bowman who is averaging a career high in points and rebounds this year: 20.5 points and 8.1 rebounds; from knocking down the deep-ball to getting to the charity strike, the scoring machine can do it all. SU split their two-game series with the Eagles last year, and Bowman was a real problem for the Syracuse zone as he averaged 21.5 points in those two games. Syracuse’s defense was picked apart Saturday night in Blacksburg, so let’s see if the 2-3 zone is better prepared for a proven scorer such as Bowman Wednesday night.

Can the Orange force Boston College into careless turnovers?

BC does a very good job of taking care of the ball, as they average the fourth fewest giveaways per game in the ACC at just 12.1 turnovers per game. Syracuse’s offense isn’t the most effective in the half court, so creating transition opportunities off of turnovers is one way they can put up points. The 2-3 zone has the tendency to make opponents overthink their decisions, so let’s see if it can create some mishaps from a team that is good at limiting their mistakes.