Well, things have taken a bit of a turn of late. Following a five-game winning streak in ACC play, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has since lost two, scraped together a win over lowly Wake Forest, and then (largely without Elijah Hughes) lost to NC State at home. We weren’t expecting to beat the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, but doing so is a lot more crucial now.
FSU, if you haven’t been paying attention, is 20-4 on the year (10-3 in the ACC) and a legitimate contender both atop the ACC and perhaps college basketball as a whole. The ‘Noles have a very balanced offensive attack, and are also one of the top defenses in the country (per KenPom). It’s a recipe for a rough afternoon for the Orange with or without Hughes in the game — on paper, anyway.
Before the game tips off on Saturday at noon ET — on ESPN2 — we asked the TNIAAM staff to predict the outcome.
Florida State 81, Syracuse 68
Even if Elijah Hughes is able to play in this game, it’s unlikely he’ll have the same impact we’ve seen all season. SU almost beat N.C. State without Hughes, but I don’t think they come close against Florida State. The Seminoles, although not as strong on the boards as we’ve seen the last few years, are deep and lead the ACC in steals, two areas that they’ll use to their advantage against an undermanned SU team struggling to take care of the ball without its primary playmaker. I think the Orange fall behind early and don’t have quite enough offensive power to make a comeback.
Florida State 79, Syracuse 70
Even as the usual staff optimist, I can’t in good conscience pick the Orange here. Without knowing the status of Elijah Hughes, and with how dominant Florida State has looked in most games, I don’t think we stand much of a chance. In truth, this is a terrible matchup for SU. Florida State has size at every position, and the depth to sustain foul trouble or poor shooting performances. They also hit nearly 36 percent of their threes as a team, and have seven different players with 10 or more makes on the season (Syracuse has three for comparison). This game could get really ugly. I hope I’m wrong, but I honestly think my optimism is the Orange holding it to a single digit loss.
Florida State 84, Syracuse 79
My gut tells me this is a blowout with Hughes’ status uncertain. I would’ve said the same about the NC State game if I knew he wouldn’t play, and the Orange played into the late minutes with a real chance to win. Syracuse surprisingly scores roughly two points per 100 more than the Seminoles. The 10-point gap between their defensive ratings will be harder to account for. Devin Vassell shoots 42% and MJ Walker has killed SU in the past. I don’t see a path to victory, but do anticipate the Orange finding a path to competitiveness with or without Hughes. Look for a Buddy Boeheim resurgence against a FSU defense that’s allowed 34.6% three-point shooting in conference play.
Florida State 84, Syracuse 71
I watched the Seminoles play Duke and came away impressed by their ability to defend. They shot terrible from 3 and the foul line and still almost won because of the havoc Trent Forrest caused with 8 steals. Syracuse asked a lot of Joe Girard against NC State and if Elijah Hughes is limited or out, the Orange will need to go deeper into their guards to help Girard from what will be a lot of pressure. To pull off the upset Syracuse is going to need to drive the ball and try and get deeper into the Seminoles bench but it’s tough to see it happening.
Florida State 77, Syracuse 65
The biggest question for Syracuse is the obvious: will Elijah Hughes suit up or sit nursing his injury? Either way, I think Syracuse comes up short in this one. FSU gets after it on the defensive end (forced Duke into 21 turnovers despite the loss on Monday). Along with being the tallest team in the country, Leonard Hamilton has depth, a luxury Syracuse is bereft of. The ‘Noles will out-athlete Syracuse at every position and bring two seven-footers off the bench. Unless Syracuse has a great shooting night it’s hard to imagine this game being close.
Florida State 71, Syracuse 60
Even if Hughes goes for Syracuse, I doubt he’ll be 100%. That makes SU’s job infinitely tougher against an excellent ‘Noles defense. FSU also hits threes at a pretty sizeable clip (35.8%) and isn’t limited by having just one player to do all the heavy lifting. SU sticks around for a bit here since it’s an early tip-off the day after Valentine’s Day and everyone’s in a bit of a haze. But that wears off eventually, and Florida State pulls away for the win.
Now it’s your turn...
Who will win the Syracuse vs. Florida State game?
This poll is closed
Syracuse, and we’re back in business!
Florida State and dread starts to become resignation