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Wake Forest vs. Syracuse Preview: Q&A w/ Nunes Magician

We talk to John Cassillo of Syracuse's SB Nation site Nunes Magician to preview Tuesday night's Wake Forest vs. Syracuse game.

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Syracuse was a preseason top 25 team, but is currently 38th in Ken Pom. Did you think Syracuse was rated too high at the start of the season, or is this a surprise?

Too high, probably. I mean, we always like to entertain the idea that we're a top-25 (or better) team, but this was a transition year for the Orange from the onset. Losing your top three scorers and trying to implement a bunch of freshman into the 2-3 zone doesn't typically mean you're in for your most successful season. After four losses in non-conference play, we've certainly learned that. This is a young team that is probably playing just below its abilities.

Freshmen Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph came in as heralded prospects, but haven't been stellar. Even though they are just freshmen, were you and other Cuse fans expecting more this season?

Given what we've seen from some stellar freshmen over the years -- Tyler Ennis most recently -- I think we were under the assumption that they'd just walk in and "get it." That sort of happened for McCullough, but after a hot start, he certainly cooled (and let's see what happens with last night's injury). In terms of Joseph, there's just a lot he needs to improve. For every decent shot or nice pass, there's a turnover to go with it. Boeheim's leash has gotten much shorter with him over the course of the season too, leaving us without a true point guard for extended periods. We expected more, for sure. But again, they're freshmen. We probably shouldn't have.

Syracuse is an excellent defensive team (13th in Ken Pom), but struggles offensively mostly due to poor perimeter shooting. Given this, what do you think this team's ceiling is.

That's a pretty spot-on assessment, really. So given that, have to say that this team will be on the bubble all season and is likely short for the NCAA Tournament unless they manage to fix their shooting issues. They can obviously stop most teams from scoring. But like the last two years, without an ability to put up points themselves, it's all for naught came tournament time.

Wake Forest is coming off consecutive close losses to Louisville and Duke, as well as a victory over Georgia Tech. What are Syracuse fans thinking headed into this game?

We're thinking you guys are probably better than we thought heading into the season, and are fully aware of the upset potential on Tuesday night -- even as a home game for Syracuse. The ACC's gotten so tough from top-to-bottom, there really are no nights off. Wake made a great hire with Danny Manning and his impact is already pretty clear in how much better the Deacons look each game -- in particular on defense. In another year or so, Wake Forest is likely to be back in that top half of the conference.

Finally, a prediction.

Losing Chris McCullough is a huge blow for Syracuse, but given his extended slump lately, I think the Orange can still get past his absence. Both teams probably nullify each others' strength on the boards, leaving the game to be decided by shooters. While SU has struggled from the floor all year, there have been bright spots, and we'll be banking on one of those. Should Trevor Cooney or Michael Gbinije find a way to get hot from outside (not out of the question), that should be enough to give Syracuse the win. We'll go with 69-61, Orange.

Many thanks to John for taking his time to answer our questions. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnCassillo. If you want to read my answers to John's questions, you can click here.