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Syracuse vs. Notre Dame preview: Four things to watch

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Let’s start with the hope that we’re actually watching the game...

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team received more unintentional time off after the Louisville game was postponed on Wednesday, so now they turn attention to Saturday’s opponent: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s dealing with an unplanned layoff of their own after their matchup with Clemson was postponed as well. Hopefully they haven’t used that time to perfect stressful endings vs. the Orange any more than they already did last year.

Before this game gets going on Saturday afternoon, we preview some of the most important things to watch.

Christian: Who doesn’t love charity?

Something that probably deserves a longer look and in-depth article is Syracuse’s lack of attention at the free throw line. The Orange are the best free-throw shooting team in the ACC at 79%. However, Syracuse is only seventh in the conference at free throw attempts per game at 18.8. This goes hand-in-hand with the Orange’s reluctance to attack the paint at various points throughout a game. Notre Dame started to fall behind in its last game against Miami when their two big forwards, Nate Laszewski and Juwan Durham, got into foul trouble. The Fighting Irish are like the Orange in that neither team has much depth behind their starters. Attacking the basket and forcing fouls not only plays into Syracuse’s efficiency at the foul line, it also forces Notre Dame to use the bench far more than they would like too.

Kevin: Active zone

Notre Dame enters this game having won five of their last seven and have been doing it with their offense. As a team they are shooting 47% from the field this season with Nate Laszewski leading the way at 65%. The Orange are going to have to locate shooters and make sure the ball stays on the perimeter. If the Irish are able to get into the lane they are going to find open shots and could turn this one into a shootout.

Szuba: The Joe Girard-Prentiss Hubb Classic

There’s history here between Joe Girard and Notre Dame guard Prentiss Hubb. The last time these two met in the dome they traded blows, going shot for shot on the offensive end after Hubb stepped over a Girard and was T’d up. He poked the bear and Girard responded in a big way. Do we see that kind of fire out of Girard again? His scoring is important to this team as Syracuse is 6-1 when he scores double-figures.

John: Making something happen inside without free throws

The Irish don’t really foul, but as we discussed earlier this week, the free throw line’s been a big part of a successful Syracuse game plan. That means Syracuse is going to have to either a) create fouls for themselves or b) remain effective at the rim without the benefit of being able to get free throws out of it. If shots are falling for Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier — the two most efficient offensive players on the team — the latter situation can work well. If not, it’s a tougher proposition (though at least the odds of picking up some offensive rebounds here seems a little better than most games).