Teams: Syracuse Orange (16-12, 9-8) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (11-17, 4-13)
Date & Time: Saturday, February 29 at 4 p.m. ET
Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has a 76% chance of beating the Tar Heels.
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 4-12, UNC... yikes.
Current Streak: 8, North Carolina... double yikes.
First Meeting: The Orange and Tar Heels first faced off in the East Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament in 1957. Syracuse lost the game 67-58. The Tar Heels would go on to win the national championship with a perfect 32-0 season. It was a solid season for the Orange as well, led by a trio of seniors: Vince Cohen, Gary Clark, and Jim Snyder.
Last Meeting: A 95-83 loss on the road for the Orange. Syracuse played well throughout, and actually held a three point halftime lead, but were ultimately sunk by too many fouls, missed free throws, and badly losing the rebounding battle (46-25). Tyus Battle scored 29 points and Elijah Hughes added 15 from five threes in the loss.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,063-390 at SU) | North Carolina - Roy Williams (17th Year, 464-149 at UNC)
Coach Bio: For nearly two decades, Roy Williams has coached the North Carolina Tar Heels. In that time he’s won three national championships and been to five Final Fours. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t been quite so productive for ol’ Roy. At 11-17, he’s currently in the midst of his worst season at UNC. By a lot.
Karmic retribution for decades of fake classes at UNC? Simple coincidence? Who knows!
Prior to North Carolina, Williams was the head coach at Kansas for another 15 seasons. He made four more Final Fours in that span and was the national runner-up twice (you may recall one of them). Overall, Roy Williams has 882 wins, which is seventh all-time amongst coaches. He is also the only coach in NCAA history with 400 wins at two different universities.
Last Year: North Carolina finished the season 29-7 and 16-2 in ACC play, earning them a conference championship regular season tie with Virginia. After losing to Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, UNC still claimed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They would make it to the Sweet Sixteen before ultimately falling to Auburn.
Last Game: After seven straight losses, North Carolina picked up their fourth conference win by defeating NC State 85-79 behind 30 points from Garrison Brooks. Brooks has been coming on strong recently, scoring 52 points over his last two contests. Cole Anthony added 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists for the Tar Heels against the Wolfpack.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Let’s talk more about Garrison Brooks. He is going to be a handful for the Orange all game. At 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, Brooks has the size the be a major nuisance for SU on the interior and offensive glass. He is exactly the type of player that has feasted on the back of our zone this year, and limiting him is going to be essential if the Orange want to win.
Look for Brooks to alternate between the high post and the low block, demanding constant attention. If he gets going, it’s going to be a long game for us, so containing him early and forcing him into contested jumpers is going to be paramount for Bourama Sidibe and the forwards.
If Syracuse Wins: This is honestly a good win for us. Roy Williams has simply had Jim Boeheim’s number over the years, and has always had the perfect blend to give the zone fits. He doesn’t quite have that this year, but he still has a fairly athletic squad that will be a major challenge for SU. A win here is a decent accomplishment.
If Syracuse Loses: Ugh. I’m just sick of losing to North Carolina. This will easily be our best shot in four or five seasons against UNC, so I’m not even going to think about the loss here. Besides, it doesn’t really mean much for our NCAA tourney chances if we lose, other than seeding for the ACC Tournament.
Fun Fact 1: The last time the Orange beat the Tar Heels was in 2014, Syracuse’s first year in the ACC. That was part of the infamous 25-0 start for Syracuse on a team featuring Tyler Ennis, CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas, and Trevor Cooney.
Fun Fact 2: Syracuse and North Carolina have met four times in the NCAA Tournament, splitting the series at two games a piece. The last time they met was in the Final Four, during Syracuse’s magical run as a 10-seed.