Despite valiant efforts in both outings, the Syracuse Orange came up empty handed in their two-game gauntlet against the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels. However, Syracuse has three more games before the ACC Tournament begins, and it starts with a road matchup against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the second to last place team in the ACC.
Despite their inferior record, Syracuse cannot take the Demon Deacons lightly, as a loss here would seriously hurt the Orange’s resume for a bid to the Big Dance.
The Orange couldn’t get the job done on the road against the Tar Heels, but they did shoot 14-31 from deep, an improvement on their tough three point shooting this season. The Orange need their perimeter players to be able to hit some contested threes if they want to have success come tournament time, and that all starts with Elijah Hughes. Hughes hit five threes against UNC, as he was able to step into his shot and knock them down confidently. Syracuse has the tendency to go stagnant on offense at times, but a few timely threes against the Demon Deacons should be enough to pull out the win.
Tyus Battle and his contested jumpers
It seems like Battle likes making contested shots more than open shots these days. The junior guard has a knack for making tough shots over defenders, and it has helped Syracuse win games this season. Battle is going to need to carry the load if the Orange want to have success in tournament play, and that includes making some heroic shots that only a handful of players can make.
Marek Dolezaj’s recent success
The center position has been inconsistent for the Orange all season long, but Dolezaj’s effort and crafty play as of late has helped that position improve. Dolezaj doesn’t put up fancy numbers in the box score, but his crisp passing and ability to grab crucial rebounds has helped the Orange massively as of late.
The Slovakian forward may not crack the starting five, but you can bet he’ll be the one finishing crucial games if he keeps up his recent style of play.
Containing Wake Forest’s scoring ability
The Demon Deacons score the second fewest points per game in the ACC this year at 69.1 points per game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have one impressive outing against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
Wake Forest is led by junior guard Brandon Childress who averages a team high 15 points per game, as he uses the long ball to attack defenses. Syracuse needs to limit the Demon Deacons’ success from deep if they want to come back to the Carrier Dome with a win, and that starts with slowing down Childress’s production from deep.
The battle of the boards
If Syracuse wants to grab the road win, they are going to need to focus on boxing out for a full 40 minutes. Wake Forest is fourth in the ACC in rebounds per game with 41.6 boards a contest, so look for Paschal Chukwu to be key for the Orange to limit the Demon Deacons to one shot per possession.