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Syracuse vs. North Carolina preview: Five things to watch

Last we saw UNC, the Orange were dismantling them in Greensboro

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Just days after dispatching Georgetown, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (7-2, 1-1) is back in action on Tuesday to face the North Carolina Tar Heels (7-4, 2-2). Last the Orange saw UNC, the Heels were suffering a historically bad defeat in the ACC Tournament. Ends up that was the end of the season for both teams. With luck, that won’t be the case this time around.

Before things get going on ACC Network at 9 p.m. ET for some late-night wine and cheese action, we wanted to dig into some of the most notable things to watch out for when Syracuse and North Carolina play.

Ajayi: More Braswell

One thing we should be expecting when Syracuse goes up against UNC is just seeing more of Robert Braswell! In these past two games, he has been averaging close to 20 minutes per game and this is something we weren’t used to at the start of the campaign. After some memorable moments against Pittsburgh where he caught fire from deep, he was rewarded with some more quality minutes last game against Georgetown where he was able to create something we all won’t forget. His chasedown block. James calls it his, “defining moment.” Being that we are still at the beginning stages of the season due to COVID, expect more of these defining moments. It may even come later tonight.

Christian: How will Dolezaj perform without pizza powers? Offensive boards are a priority for both teams.

North Carolina is the best team in the county when it comes to grabbing offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels average 16 offensive boards per game, while the Orange are fifth in the conference with 11.2. Keep in mind that both teams are very trigger-happy with their shots. Syracuse ranks first in the conference with 62.6 field goal attempts per game, while UNC ranks third in the conference with 61.2. Also something to keep in mind is that these two offenses haven’t converted many of those field goal attempts.

The Orange are ninth in the ACC in field goal percentage at 44.2%, while the Tar Heels sit in dead last with 41.9%.That means high percentage shots are going to be a priority, which means that Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj need to be in better positions to scoop up the ill-advised shots that the Orange guards have taken as of late. The Tar Heels have three of the top seven rebounders in the conference. Giving up second chance opportunities on both sides of the ball could mean that Syracuse throws away too many opportunities to score or deny high percentage looks.

Kevin: Which Alan Griffin are we getting?

In the last four games Griffin is shooting 5 for 25 from beyond the arc. He’s been called out for Jim Boeheim for his defense but he’s also second on the Orange in scoring and rebounding. Against the Tar Heels Syracuse will need an active Griffin on both ends as he’s shown that the can match up with the athletes Carolina has. I think Griffin has been too reliant on the outside shot and if Syracuse can get him into the mid-range game he can be an effective weapon.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Szuba: Big on big

Roy Williams always seems to have multiple talented, physically-imposing bigs in his stable and this year’s UNC team is no different with three former McDonald’s All-Americans and one Preseason ACC Player of the Year candidate. That POTY candidate (Garrison Brooks) is now coming off the bench in favor of precocious freshman Day’Ron Sharpe. He’s joined down low by Armando Bacot. The question(s) for Syracuse is whether or not this team can mitigate the Heels on the glass just enough to compete and whether or not Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier can stay out of foul trouble. If this turns into a slugfest down low, Carolina has depth at center as 7-foot-1 frosh Walker Kessler also earns some time. Assuming Bourama Sidibe isn’t able to play, Syracuse doesn’t have the luxury of depth down low that Carolina does. How will the Orange handle that?

John: UNC’s two shooters

On paper, the Tar Heels don’t look like a very proficient team from outside the arc at 30.4%. However, there’s more to that number. A bunch of the misses come from Caleb Love at just 8-for-45. Meanwhile, guards Andrew Platek and Kerwin Walton are a combined 26-of-62 (42%) from three. If this one turns into a barnburner, it’s probably due to those two hitting more open threes — assuming the zone’s been collapsed in to account for the team’s more obvious inside abilities, which could very well be the case. It’ll be a delicate balance between being vulnerable in the middle vs. extending out to cut off those two.