Syracuse and North Carolina have taken different paths this season, but they have one thing in common: close games.
So one of them is bound to be pleased if they can eke out a victory when they meet Tuesday night in an ACC game in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Seven of North Carolina’s 11 games have been decided by six points or less. The Tar Heels (7-4, 2-2 ACC) won close encounters with Notre Dame and Miami before Saturday’s matchup with Clemson was postponed because of Clemson’s COVID-19 issues.
Syracuse also canceled its game with Clemson this week bringing both the Orange and Tar Heels together for Tuesday’s late addition to the schedule.
“It was crazy because we’re going over Clemson’s scouting report on Friday and we’re walking out to the court to do a little Clemson walk-through and then, all of a sudden, the message comes through,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “And so, we sort of tried to scramble and stop working on Clemson walk-through for sure and just tried to do some things to make our own team a little bit better.”
Syracuse (7-2, 1-1 ACC) has played four games decided by six points or less, plus another game that went into overtime.
Syracuse returned to play Wednesday following a two-game pause, failing to protect a double-digit lead in last week’s loss to Pittsburgh before holding on to defeat Georgetown on Saturday night.
Tuesday’s game serves as a make-up clash for a postponed Jan. 2 game between the teams set for Chapel Hill.
Buddy Boeheim and Joseph Girard III had 21 and 18 points, respectively, for Syracuse in the 74-69 home victory against Georgetown.
“We need them to make shots to win,” coach Jim Boeheim said of the guards.
Five Orange players average double figures in scoring, led by Quincy Guerrier’s 15.7 and Alan Griffin’s 15.6.
Coach Boeheim said that with the team coming off a recent pause because of COVID-19 contact tracing that playing games on a more regular basis should help as long as the Orange are able to mix in practices.
“Just too many missed opportunities on offense,” Jim Boeheim said. “We need to keep working at it, try to get better.”
The Tar Heels have concerns on offense as well. Williams said preparing a roster heavy with freshmen to face Syracuse’s zone for the first time could be troublesome.
“For freshmen, it’s like hitting you in the mouth and I do believe that it’ll be a challenge for us,” Williams said. “We can try to simulate it in practice, but we don’t do a very good job because it’s not who we are, not what we do.”
Syracuse could have forward Bourama Sidibe, who has missed two games with knee soreness, back to help in the post.
“There’s nothing sure about that,” Jim Boeheim said. “We’re hopeful that happens.”
North Carolina will be the first men’s basketball program to play 1,000 regular-season ACC games. The Tar Heels are 707-292 over their 999 conference games, marking the most victories of any team in the league.
These teams split two meetings last season, with North Carolina’s regular-season road victory stretching its winning streak in the series to nine games. Syracuse won in an ACC tournament blowout in what became the last game played because the rest of the event was canceled at the start of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
–Field Level Media