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Preview: UNC at #2 Syracuse

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina at Syracuse, 12:00 PM, ESPN

UNC makes its first trip to the Carrier Dome since winning the East Regional there during the 2005 NCAA Tournament en route to the national title. It is also the first time UNC has played Syracuse as a member of the ACC. The most recent game between the two programs was in November, 2009 in Madison Square Garden. Prior to that UNC needed overtime in the opening game of the 1986-87 season to knock off the Orange in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. That win was revenge for Syracuse knocking UNC out of the NCAA Tournament eight months before.

The running theme all week, given how poorly the Tar Heels have played in their first two ACC games, that Syracuse would be the latest ranked team to lose to UNC. Much of that has been bantered around in half-jokingly since the Tar Heels are in the midst of a stretch of bad play that was far worse than the losses earlier in the season. Marcus Paige has been in a major slump, Leslie McDonald cooled off from a hot start since his return and the stable of interior players continue to be inconsistent. The offense is a hot mess and the defense looks decent enough on paper but is prone to some inexplicable lapses.

Now the Heels are facing the #2 team in the country on their home floor in front of a huge crowd that will be plenty raucous with the Tar Heels in town. With UNC facing a zone defense which will likely give them trouble especially given Syracuse size and length. The Orange only have two players under 6-7 that play significant minutes. Having players with that kind of size and athleticism will make cracking the zone very difficult not to mention controlling the boards.

On the defensive end, contending with that size will be difficult and keeping Tyler Ennis out of the lane even tougher. The freshman point guard is presently sporting a 4.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. C.J. Fair was a preseason All-ACC pick and averaging 17.8 points per game and Trevor Cooney is shooting 45% from three. That's more than enough weapons in all the right places to give UNC an early afternoon headache.

Syracuse 75 UNC 62