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Syracuse men’s basketball: things to watch vs Notre Dame

It’s the ACC opener and the Orange need a win

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 3-4 Syracuse Orange open up ACC play on the road at the 6-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Syracuse is coming off a blowout loss to Illinois while the Irish rolled at home over Michigan State. Oh it’s also going to be the first appearance for Baldwinsville native JJ Starling against his hometown club.

What will we be watching for tomorrow?

Szuba: Can the Syracuse offense bounce back?

Syracuse put up one of its worst offensive performances in recent memory against Illinois on Tuesday by scoring (an on-brand) 44 points. Of the course, the Illini is especially good on the defensive end of the floor. But can the Orange bounce back and find a way to score against a Notre Dame team that has a proclivity to be disinterested in defense? The Irish try to outscore you, which is kind of the name of this game we call basketball! But it also has only posted one top-100 KenPom defensive team in the last five years and gives up one point per defensive possession. Translation? Unlike your dating life or Qatar in the World Cup, Syracuse should be able to score.

Mike: Let’s start with the basics...

Before the Orange can score, they need to remember how to set up plays on offense. The entire game against Illinois was an unorganized mess. No one could create any real ball movement, Joe Girard and Judah Mintz didn’t find any open space to make meaningful shot attempts, and Chris Bell was all but dared to keep missing threes. So... how about we let Jesse Edwards start off with the ball and allow him to set up the true scorers on the team. He currently has the second-best PPG (13.7) on the team, and to be honest, that’s not the role he should have to focus on. Use his 6’11” frame to make the defense act first and be drawn inside, then either take the contact or look at your outside options to shoot or cycle the ball and open up a closer look.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Dom: Can Syracuse’s defense survive for the full 40 minutes?

Entering this game, Notre Dame ranks as the 25th-best team in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The concern, given the Orange’s putrid shooting against Illinois, will of course be the offense. But defensively, the Fighting Irish have a potent offense headlined by having the third-best field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage in the ACC. Against Illinois, Syracuse packed the paint and dared the Fighting Illini to fire away from behind the arc. The strategy worked in the first half, but Illinois adjusted and made Syracuse pay in the second half. As Mike said, Syracuse needs to return back to the basics... and that starts with fixing up the defense.

Christian: How the turn tables

Syracuse finds itself in a unique position that it hasn’t been in for some time. The Orange actually has a bench that Jim Boeheim is willing to use. Whether or not you think those bench options are good options is another story. Notre Dame, on the other hand, finds itself in the position Syracuse is usually in. All of Mike Brey’s starters are averaging at least 33 minutes per game. Four of them are averaging 35 minutes per game. The Fighting Irish only have one bench player, Ven-Allen Lubin, who plays significant minutes. Syracuse isn’t going to force Notre Dame to foul out, but the Orange could tire out the Fighting Irish by the end of the game with a deeper bench.

(Side note: James, welcome to the soccer wing of TNIAAM. Please see Steve at Wolf’s for your welcome scarf)

Kevin: Control the glass

Notre Dame is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. They don’t crash the offensive glass so Syracuse should be able to grab the ball and get into transition. When the Orange are on offense they have the opportunity to collect second chances and look to put a thin Irish roster into foul trouble.

That’s what we’re watching for, tell us what you’re going to be focused on