The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team will try and keep it's six-game winning streak alive Tuesday, as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons visit the Carrier Dome for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown. The Orange (12-4, 3-0 ACC) are coming off of a smooth-sailing 70-57 victory over the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, while the Deacons snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday, beating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 76-69.
Since starting the season 6-4 overall, Syracuse has found confidence in its game, winning six consecutive contests. Though the opponents haven't been world-beaters, the Orange have been playing much improved. They've shot the ball better, aren't turning it over as much and are finding ways to close out victories.
Meanwhile, the young Deacons are trying to find their ACC legs. After suffering an early-December loss to the NC State Wolfpack (Dec. 6), and pushing the Duke Blue Devils (Jan. 7) and Louisville Cardinals (Jan. 4) to the brink of defeat, they were able to edge Georgia Tech on Saturday.
|Syracuse (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Rakeem Christmas"]" style="padding: 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Rakeem Christmas||Sr.||6'9"||250||17.1||8.9|
|Tyler Roberson"]" style="padding: 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Tyler Roberson||So.||6'8"||212||6.9||6.3|
|Trevor Cooney"]" style="padding: 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Trevor Cooney||Jr.||6'4"||195||14.1||2.4|
|Kaleb Joseph "]" style="padding: 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Kaleb Joseph||Fr.||6'3"||165||6.6||2.8|
|Michael Gbinije"]" style="padding: 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Michael Gbinije||Jr.||6'7"||200||10.0||4.8|
The loss of freshman forward Chris McCullough, will be a tough one to overcome for the Orange. Jim Boeheim's squad was rolling with a seven-man rotation that featured McCullough starting at the four spot, but more so playing the backup to center Rakeem Christmas. Now, Christmas' backup will be sophomore Chinonso Obokoh, who entered Sunday's game for less than two minutes and committed three fouls. Obokoh shouldn't be expected to contribute on offense either.
Despite the short bench, Syracuse's three-man attack of Christmas, junior guard Trevor Cooney and junior swingman Michael Gbinije has turned into a nice core group Boeheim can count on.
Since shooting an awful 28.3% from behind the 3-point line in SU's first eight games, Cooney has been making nearly half his long-distance attempts in his last eight games. On Sunday, No. 10 scored a season-high 28 points behind seven 3-pointers. His 7-for-11 shooting from behind the 3-point arc pushed his eight-game shooting percentage to 46.8%. Also during the stretch, Cooney has averaged 16.1 PPG.
The Orange's most consistent player has been Christmas, who is second in the ACC in scoring and blocked shots as well as fifth in rebounding.
Gbinije's 11-point performance on Sunday helped him earn a double-digit scoring average for the first time since the Orange's second game of the season. His ability to knock down open 3-point shots has helped free up Cooney and his rebounding has helped the Orange overcome the up-and-down play of McCullough.
Meanwhile, freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph is coming off his best performance in awhile. Joseph netted five points, dished out seven assists and committed just one turnover in the win over FSU on Sunday.
|Wake Forest (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Codi Miller-McIntyre"]">Codi Miller-McIntyre||Jr.||6'3"||205||12.6||5.3|
|Devin Thomas"]">Devin Thomas||Jr.||6'9"||255||13.1||9.7|
|Mitchell Wilbekin"]">Mitchell Wilbekin||Fr.||6'2"||165||8.6||1.9|
|Greg McClinton"]">Greg McClinton||rFr.||6'7"||200||4.2||3.2|
|Darius Leonard"]">Darius Leonard||Sr.||6'9"||225||6.2||2.7|
Wake Forest is led by first-year head coach Danny Manning, who was a former star at Kansas. Manning is trying to rebuild a roster which features only three players that saw action against Syracuse last year.
Luckily for Manning, junior forward Devin Thomas is one of those returners. Thomas is playing at an all-conference level and has provided, pretty much, all of the offense for the Deacons during league play, averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game during ACC play. Thomas has played his best basketball against the best competition, as he scored 24 points in a 73-65 loss to the Duke Blue Devils (Jan. 7) and 31 points in a 85-76 loss to the Louisville Cardinals (Jan. 4).
Thomas' match-up with Syracuse's 2-3 zone will be an interesting watch, especially if the Orange's big men get in foul trouble. Last season, Thomas scored 12 points and collected five rebounds against SU.
Wake Forest's second-best option on offense is junior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who is netting 12.6 PPG and is one of the best rebounding guards in the league averaging 5.3 rebounds. That's a pretty solid feat for a 6-3 guard. Miller-McIntyre's best game this season came against Duke, which featured him scoring 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Miller-McIntyre has scored in double figures in eleven of the Deacons last 14 games.
No other Wake Forest player is averaging 10 points or more, but the Deacons have plenty of 3-point shooting options. Freshman forward Cornelius Hudson (31.3%), freshman guard Mitchell Wilbekin (44.8%), senior forward Darius Leonard (32.6%) and freshman forward Dinos Mitoglou (28.3%) are all not scared to let the long-ball fly.
Junior guard Madison Jones, who has started a few games for Wake Forest this season, should come off the bench and see action.
|Team Comparison||Syracuse||Wake Forest|
|Record||(12-4, 3-0)||(9-8, 1-3)|
|Points Per Game||68.70%||70.6|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.7||14.8|
Comparing the two teams, Syracuse's clear advantage comes on the defensive side of the ball where it limits opponents scoring (57.5 PPG) and shooting percentage (36.6%) better than Wake Forest, which ranks second-to-last in scoring defense (68.0 PPG) and last in defensive field goal percentage (43.7%). The Orange also turn the ball over less than the young Deacons squad.
Wake Forest is a slightly better rebounding and 3-point shooting team than Syracuse. The Deacons own one of the best rebounding margins in the nation, while they make a higher percentage of long-range shots (32.6%).
There's also this:
Wake Forest plays at the 28th-fastest tempo in the country. Will be interesting to see what #Syracuse does with short rotation, short rest.— chris carlson (@ccarlsononSU) January 12, 2015
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network (NBC 3 in Syracuse)
Radio: Syracuse IMG Sports Network
RPI Rankings: Syracuse–49; Wake Forest–138
What It Means For Syracuse: This is the second of a four-game stretch for the Orange that a victory should be expected, especially with the way SU has been playing lately. On Sunday, SU was able to knock off FSU at home and with games against Clemson and Boston College looming, this game could be a continuation of a streak that would be critical to the team's postseason aspirations. Wake Forest will be a tough task, especially if the Orange get into foul trouble.
Meaningless Prediction: Wake Forest 60, Syracuse 59
This is going to be a close one. Closer than the FSU game was on Sunday. I say this because Wake Forest can actually play a bit of defense, can push the ball on offense and can rebound. The Deacons' quicker pace could be the difference maker, especially if it causes the Orange to get into foul trouble.
Unless Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas continue their stellar play, then this could be a tough one for the short-benched Orange.
|Syracuse Next 5 Games||Date||Time||TV|
|at Clemson||1/17/2015||8:00 PM||ACCN|
|Boston College||1/20/2015||7:00 PM||ACCN|
|at North Carolina||1/26/2015||7:00 PM||ESPN|
|Virginia Tech||2/3/2015||9:00 PM||ESPNU|