Preview: Wake Forest v. Syracuse

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs are unbeaten at home and are coming off back-to-back wins, but will their streak end as the undefeated Orange come to town?

The Orange travel to Winston-Salem undefeated, as the top team in the Big East ACC and the #2 team in the country. Syracuse hasn't had trouble adjusting to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and despite playing a very difficult non-conference schedule, their only real test was at home against Pittsburgh.

Category Wake Forest Syracuse

Effective FG%

49.6% 51%
Effective FG% Defense 44.5% 48.6%
Turnover% 17.3% 15.4%
Turnover% Defense 16.2% 24.4%
Offensive Rebound% 31.9% 39.7%
Defensive Rebound% 69.3% 69.2%
FTA/FGA 47.7% 42.6%
FTA/FGA Defense 37.6% 35.3%

Effective Field Goal %

Over the past decade many things have changed, but one thing that remains the same is a dominant forward in Syracuse Orange. C.J. Fair is an experienced player who is the focal point of Jim Boeheim's offense, playing 91.4% of the minutes and possessing the ball 26.7% of the time. Fair is responsible for 28.6% of field goal attempts and hits nearly 50% from inside the arc. Three-point specialist, Gerry McNamara Trevor Cooney fires off more shots than Plaxico Burress in a New York City nightclub and knocks down 41.6% of shots from deep. The good news is that Wake is among the best in the country at limiting effective shooting (28th), a major reason being the lack of 3-point attempts against them (29.4% of FGA) and poor shooting from deep at just 28.2% (12th).

Syracuse's zone defense is perhaps the most well-known and feared defense in basketball. The Orange have a lengthy and athletic zone defense that is great at blocking shots (17.8%). Boeheim's 2-3 zone tends to cause opponents to take more 3-point shots than usual, as shots from deep make up 43.8% of opponents field goal attempts. Opponents have launched up a ton of threes with varying success; so Coron Williams, Tyler Cavanaugh and Travis McKie will need to take advantage of their looks.

Turnover %

Turnovers should be a huge advantage for the Orange, and the biggest reason being freshman phenom Tyler Ennis. Ennis will be in the conversation for ACC and National Freshman of the Year. He has a usage rate of 21%, boasts an assist rate of 31.4% (63rd), and turns the ball over just 12.5% of the time. Even more impressive is that Ennis has more steals than a Shia LaBeouf movie script, as he's 10th in the country with a steal on nearly 5% of possessions. The Deacs haven't been able to force turnovers on a consistent basis, so they will really need to limit their own turnovers. Coron Williams comes in with the lowest turnover rate in the country, as he is turning the ball over once for every 121 minutes he plays.

Rebounding %

Offensive rebounding is a clear advantage for the Orange, as they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. Jerami "actually spent time studying" Grant, has nearly doubled his minutes this year and his efforts have shown up on the glass. Grant is pulling down offensive boards on over one-tenth of opportunities, while cleaning up the defensive glass 16.8% of the time. Though Syracuse is a dominant on the offensive glass, they can be exploited on the defensive end, where they are slightly below the D1 average. One reason for the mediocre defensive rebounding is the number of long rebounds that are given up as a result an above average amount shots from behind the arc.

Free Throw Rate

Free throw rate is my favorite of the Four Factors and the one I believe is the most undervalued. Wake Forest has several players who draw 5+ per 40 minutes. In each of the Deacs ACC wins they have been able to put one of their opponents leading scorers in foul trouble; Paige and Tokoto (UNC), T.J. Warren (NCST), Devin Wilson (VPI), and Garrick Sherman (Notre Dame). Unfortunately, Syracuse's top players (Fair, Ennis and Grant) do an excellent job of staying out of foul trouble. Wake Forest won't be able to fire up 3's all game, they will need to continue attacking the basket.

Conclusion

This is a huge game for the Deacs and a win would do wonders for an NCAA tournament bid. If Wake is going to win this game they will need a big game from Coron Williams, as he offers more against a team that gives up a lot of 3's and forces a lot of turnovers. Codi Miller-McIntyre didn't put up huge numbers against the Irish but he showed us that he can score on demand and has no problem getting to the basket. CMM has gotten his teammates involved and will need to continue doing so, but when it comes down to a key possession the ball needs to be in his hands. If the Deacs shoot well from deep and Devin Thomas can keep Grant and Fair off of the offensive glass, I think they have a chance. However, I think Syracuse's ability to dictate tempo and force turnovers wins them this game.

Prediction

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via cdn1.sbnation.com

Syracuse: 66

Wake Forest: 60

Tip off is at 9 p.m., so come on out to the Joel and support the team. As always, go Deacs!

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