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Syracuse vs. NC State preview: Four things to watch

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What to keep an eye on this Sunday

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After an ugly (but expected) loss to Virginia on Monday, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team nearly had a week to figure out what went wrong and prepare for the N.C. State Wolfpack. Like SU, State’s in the muddled middle of the ACC, though their path forward just got significantly more difficult now that Devon Daniels is out.

Before the Orange and Wolfpack tip off at 6 p.m. ET on ACC Network this Sunday, we preview some of the most important things to pay attention to.

Kevin: Hot start

NC State comes into this came having lost four of five, and learning that Devon Daniels has been lost for the season. If Syracuse can jump ahead early it could put the Wolfpack into a situation where they struggle to overcome another challenge. It’s important for the Orange to be patient on offense and avoid settling for the first open look, but move the ball until they get better opportunities. This is a game that Syracuse can’t afford to lose at this point in the season.

Christian: Threat Identification

Something that pretty much everyone realized after the Virginia game is that the Syracuse defense did not correctly identify the offensive threats from the Cavaliers. That played a large part in the multitude of errors shown in the Orange zone. This practice of quick threat identification is extremely important against this NC State team who plays its first game without leading scorer Devon Daniels against Syracuse. The Orange need to quickly identify who NC State wants to score the ball without Daniels in the lineup. I’m not saying that the Wolfpack will have someone like Sam Hauser on their team, but someone can put up Hauser-like numbers if Syracuse doesn’t find out quickly who’s going to shoot the ball for NC State.

Szuba: Syracuse at home

In a season like this in college basketball (unprecedented, maybe you’ve heard), one would think that home court advantage wouldn’t be all that much of an advantage as cardboard cutouts have replaced fans. Oh wait, that’s right. Syracuse isn’t doing that.

Anyway, for one reason or another, Syracuse is 8-1 inside the Carrier Dome this season. Be it due to a weaker conference slate at home, a missed Bryant shot and blocked Buffalo layup that resulted in Orange wins, or perhaps the added burden of travel for road teams in a year such as this (coupled with playing basketball inside a quiet airplane hangar), the Orange have been strong at home. Can that continue on Sunday?

John: Drive the ball

We knew going into the UVA game that it was going to be tough to get past the pack line defense, so threes were probably Syracuse’s best shot at pulling off an upset. NC State doesn’t pose the same sort of challenge inside, so that should mean the Orange are going back to their typical strengths: shots at the rim and getting to the line. Syracuse is about a top-50 team shooting from inside the arc, and top 10 in terms of free throws. Yet just 50.5% of their points come from twos. Obviously they need to drive more, which will get Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj more involved, and put less onus on the guards to get hot from three.