Going into last weekend, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team had two more opportunities on the schedule to score impressive wins to help boost NCAA Tournament odds. Saturday — a three-point loss to Florida State — was one of them. Wednesday night’s matchup with the Louisville Cardinals is the other.
Louisville’s largely spent the year in the top 10, though two straight upset losses (on the road vs. Georgia Tech and Clemson, respectively) have them reeling a bit. They’re still a team with some major aspirations for this season, however, at 21-5. So Syracuse is definitely going to have their hands full trying to pick up the much-needed win, especially at the Yum! Center where the Cards have only lost once this year (though the Orange have also won three of their last five vs. Louisville there).
Before the game tips off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET — on ESPN — we asked the TNIAAM staff to predict the outcome.
Louisville 81, Syracuse 72
Not surprisingly, this isn’t a good matchup for SU, as Louisville rebounds the ball well (39 rpg), plays a nine-man rotation, and is shooting 38.3% from 3 on the season. The Cardinals, however, are also streaky and prone to the occasional poor performance. The same goes for their star and the ACC’s second-leading scorer, Jordan Nwora. Louisville has lost its last two games to Georgia Tech and Clemson, and the Orange’s hope lies in forcing the Cards into producing another clunker. I think SU keeps it close, but fatigue sets in once again, and the Orange fall to a team hungry to get a win at home and climb back up in the rankings.
Louisville 80, Syracuse 75
The Orange continue to play it close with strong quarters through roughly the final three minutes. Whether fatigue, depth or simply the other teams surging at the right moment, it’s tough to ignore that trend when picking these games. Foul trouble didn’t totally undermine Syracuse against Florida State, but certainly didn’t help. That and Elijah Hughes’ less-than-100% status won’t help the Orange here. It’s easier to ignore Louisville’s swoon against two quality defenses on the road and players-only meeting. This one swings more toward a shootout, with Louisville scoring roughly eight more points per 100 than SU’s highly-touted offense that’s missing Buddy Boeheim’s impact lately. The Cardinals’ defense holds opponents to 33% on spot-up jumpers and 46% in transition, two numbers that bode excellent in their favor. Even considering the waning singular impact of Jordan Nwora, this one is a monumental task for an SU team playing worse in the biggest moments lately.
Syracuse 78, Louisville 74
Louisville has not looked great lately. I think teams are finally starting to realize that if you shut down Jordan Nwora, you can contain a lot of what Louisville is trying to do. No one else on the team averages 10 points. I think Steven Enoch will be handful for our back line, but we are well overdue for a breakout game from deep and I think this team is desperate for a signature win. You know that expression “never corner a wounded animal”? That’s ‘Cuse right now, and I think they ride it to their first big win of the season and it hopefully propels them on a winning streak down the stretch.
Louisville 68, Syracuse 63
The fact that the Cardinals come into this game on their own two-game losing streak means that the Orange aren’t going to sneak up on them. Both of these teams love to shoot a lot of 3s and I think Syracuse can defend pretty well but expect them to continue to find good shots against a strong defense. This is a game the Orange really need Elijah Hughes to get hot early in order to force Louisville to play catch up.
Syracuse 78, Louisville 75
I’m not sure if I actually believe Syracuse will win or if I’m just doing this to appease our readers. Louisville will probably come out with a sense of purpose after losing two games to two bad teams. But, on a serious note, I thought Louisville was the more winnable game for Syracuse between this game and FSU, so I’ll roll with the Orange here. Nwora is coming off two bad games and he’s a suspect defender, as is Ryan McMahon. I think that opens it up for the Syracuse perimeter attack. Buddy Boeheim is about due to break out of his slump while Hughes and Girard keep giving buckets. If the front-court can avoid foul trouble against Steven Enoch and Malik WIlliams, I like Syracuse’s chances.
Louisville 83, Syracuse 74
Louisville shoots a lot of threes, though a lot of the proficiency from outside comes from just two players: Jordan Nwora (42.1%) and Ryan McMahon (42.7%). More worrying, however, is the Cardinals’ ability to rebound and how that’s likely to put too much emphasis on Syracuse’s foul-prone bigs. Steven Enoch and Dwayne Sutton alone could really have a field day if Marek Dolezaj and/or Bourama Sidibe pick up some early whistles. While I think SU keeps it close for a good stretch, late game issues rear their ugly heads once again here.
Now it’s your turn...
Who will win the Syracuse vs. Louisville game?
This poll is closed
Syracuse, and we live to fight another day
Louisville, and it’s ACC title or bust