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Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech preview: Four things to watch

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Welcome to the “Must-Win” Zone.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. After Monday’s loss to Duke, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team enters must-win mode now for the foreseeable future. That stretch starts with a road game at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday. Tech’s just above the Orange in the ACC standings right now and has won three straight — including an upset win over Virginia Tech.

In advance of the game, which tips off at noon ET on ACC Network, we preview the most important things to watch.

Christian: Help your teammates

This applies to both sides of the ball. Kevin already expressed his frustration of Syracuse’s return to isolation ball, and I share that sentiment. What’s especially frustrating is that the off-ball movement has dropped off as well, which leads to all of the isolation matchups we’ve seen. There has been a significant drop-off in terms of players trying to get open, creating open passing lanes, and finding space to shoot. Georgia Tech has three players in the top 11 in the ACC in steals per game, so giving ball-handlers options is extremely important.

On the flip side of the ball, it needs to be a team effort to cut off passing lanes to the high post and a team effort to crash the boards. Jose Alvarado ranks sixth in the ACC in assists per game so you know he’ll find the passing lane to the high post. Moses Wright ranks seventh in the ACC in rebounds per game, but Georgia Tech is 14th in the conference in rebounding margin. Playing with your hands up is always important at the top of the zone, but Syracuse can’t expect Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier to hold off Wright by themselves.

Kevin: Answer for Alvarado

Some Orange fans might have forgotten that last year’s blowout in Atlanta was a game in which Alvarado did not play. His impact on the return game was evident and if Syracuse wants to win this one they need to keep him from controlling the game. Joe Girard and Kadary Richmond cannot let Alvarado keep them from getting the Orange offense set up and when he has the ball the Syracuse guards must keep him out of the lane or it will be a long afternoon.

Szuba: Shooters shoot?

We know that Syracuse has greater success when going inside and getting the ball in the paint. The only problem with that is Quincy Guerrier’s recent offensive struggles. Syracuse shouldn’t abandon that strategy completely, but the biggest hole in Georgia Tech’s defense is defending the three. The Yellow Jackets rank No. 308 in the country in adjusted three point percentage defense (Ken Pom). Look for Buddy Boeheim to continue his hot shooting and perhaps Alan Griffin finds his stroke as well. If recent games represent a trend, maybe we see more Braswell for his defense and his shots from range fall to boot.

John: Syracuse must utilize its advantage on the boards

Syracuse is averaging nearly six more rebounds per game than Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets are a poor offensive rebounding team (294th in the country). This would conceivably give the Orange an opportunity to avoid the second-chance points that have killed them all year, and also utilize a clear size advantage against a guard-heavy team. Tech is a quality shooting team both inside and outside of the three-point arc, so that poses its own concerns. But if SU’s defense can create misses, there’s a better chance than normal (in ACC play) they’re coming away with the ball.