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UNC vs. Syracuse: Game Preview

The Tar Heels look to stay undefeated at home this season against the Syracuse Orange.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina (16-3, 4-1 ACC) looks to improve to 5-1 in ACC play against Syracuse (11-7, 3-2 ACC) on Monday. The Tar Heels are coming in off an impressive win at home against then #9 Florida State, and Syracuse is coming off a big win over Boston College on Saturday. Both teams have very little time to prepare for this matchup, as both played on Saturday.

Syracuse has had a rather disappointing season so far. They started the season ranked #19 and picked to finish fifth in the ACC, however since then they’ve had double-digit losses to South Carolina, Wisconsin, St. Johns, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. They did, however, have good wins over Pittsburgh and Miami, both decent teams.

Carolina has yet to be defeated at home this year, and they hope to continue this streak on Monday night. ACC teams are 27-10 at home this year against conference opponents. Syracuse is 0-5 on the road so far this season, a statistic that seems to bode well for the Tar Heels.

Syracuse’s defense has been more porous this year than in years past, making them different than the Syracuse team that held Carolina to 45 points back in 2014. However, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense could be difficult, especially considering how poorly Carolina has played against the zone at certain points this year (Georgia Tech being an example). Carolina shot 26 threes in the Georgia Tech game, making only five, as they seemed to be befuddled by the Yellow Jackets’ zone defense. Carolina also committed a season-high 20 turnovers against Georgia Tech. Hopefully they learned from that terrible game and can deal with the zone better this time.

Carolina will be without Tony Bradley for the second straight game after he suffered a concussion against Wake Forest on Wednesday. Roy Williams and the Tar Heels used a smaller lineup to much success against Florida State, and it is likely that with Bradley’s absence they will continue to use a smaller lineup with either Justin Jackson or Theo Pinson at the four against ‘Cuse. Syracuse is not anywhere near as deep as the Tar Heels, as they usually only play six or seven players per game compared to UNC’s usual 11-man rotation (down to 10 with Bradley out).

Syracuse has a good player in 6’7” graduate transfer guard Andrew White III, who leads the Orange in scoring averaging 15.8 ppg. He played for Kansas for two years before transferring to Nebraska last year. He then transferred to Syracuse last summer as a graduate transfer. White has also shot 39% from three point range this season, and could be a very dangerous player. He scored 13 points in Syracuse’s 23-point win over Boston College on Saturday.

This will be the fourth game back for Theo Pinson, and he’s coming off a great game against FSU. He had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists against the ‘Noles. He made his first field goal of the season against FSU, a tremendous tomahawk dunk that led to a UNC run that would seal victory for the Heels. Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, and Isaiah Hicks are also coming off great games for the Heels, with 26, 22, and 22 points, respectively.

Syracuse will win if: They force Carolina to turn the ball over and contain the dynamic duo of Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II. If they do both of these things then they’ll be able to upset the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Carolina will win if: They pound the ball inside and stay out of foul trouble. Carolina will have trouble winning if they cannot get the ball to their bigs Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, and Luke Maye, and if they get into foul trouble like against FSU than they might be in trouble.

The game will be at 7:00 on ESPN. It should also be noted that this is a rematch of last years Final Four, when Carolina defeated Syracuse 83-66 to advance to the National Championship game.