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Syracuse men’s basketball: what to watch for vs Wake Forest

This one means a lot for the Orange

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Syracuse at Boston College Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange (14-7, 5-5) head into a critical road game tomorrow night against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (13-7, 5-4) in Winston-Salem. Both teams are coming off a loss and are looking to stay in the hunt for a NCAA Tournament bid. Tip-off is at 7:45 on the CW Network and here’s what we’re watching for:

Kevin: Defend for 40 minutes

Wake is averaging 78.4 points in ACC games. They are balanced with four starters averaging double-digits and Efton Reid at 9.6 ppg. They shoot the ball well from 3 (37.6%) and will punish you if you put them on the free throw line (81.9% as a team). The Orange let a weaker BC team get lots of quality looks and they can’t make the same mistake in this one. Syracuse needs to communicate and make sure they force Wake to settle for tough 2’s instead of open 3’s.

Finn: Put on the Pressure

I agree with Kevin here, Wake Forest is a top-40 offense when adjusted to opponents according to KenPom. The Orange’s defense has been unmotivated and leaky in their recent losses, allowing 103 to UNC, 85 to FSU, and 80 to BC. If Autry wants to solve these problems, he will need his team to commit to his high effort, high-pressure defense that helped them limit the likes of Pitt, Miami, and LSU. The Syracuse guards will have to be on their best behavior to deal with the balanced attack of Hunter Sallis, Kevin Miller, and Cam Hildreth.

Mike: Smart Play Design

The Deacs may not take a ton of deep shots, but they are No. 31 in the country in the rate at which they make them. Four players average double figures and are a great combination of size (Andrew Carr is 6’10) and speed (the three Finn mentioned are between 6’ and 6’5”). During the 21-0 stretch at BC, the Orange offense panicked and didn’t take the proper time to set up plays. They’ll really need to work on spacing out and creating driving lanes to have any chance at keeping up here.

Dom: Some help on the wing

Syracuse notably got some nice scoring performances from Mintz, Starling and Brown against BC, but outside of that, things looked pretty bleak offensively. The on-off numbers for Bell (-18) and Taylor (-16) didn’t look pretty in that BC game, and Syracuse can only count on Copeland at the three for so many minutes. Williams had a seven-point game versus BC — can we get another solid night of production from him, and can one of Bell or Taylor just hit a few threes and get a groove on offense?

Szuba: The best of Benny

More on Dom’s point, this is a game that probably calls for more Benny Williams with Syracuse having to defend both Efton Reid and Andrew Carr. Williams has quietly produced over the last five games, providing complementary scoring and rebounding. Irrespective of who starts, Syracuse will likely need to go with Williams for extended time and it will need him to help Maliq Brown defend Reid down low and to get on the glass.

Max: Defensive communication is key

Wake Forest takes its time on offense, averaging 18 seconds per possession (third slowest in ACC). The Demon Deacons love to attack the rim, and if opponents double, they kick the ball out for a wide open three. Syracuse’s defense will also have time setup, but it needs way better communication than it had against Boston College. Don’t be surprised if Wake big men Andrew Carr and Efton Reid feast in the paint against a smaller Orange team.

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Now it’s your turn. What are you watching for tomorrow?