BSD: What do you think the ceiling for this Syracuse team is? Can they make the NCAA Tournament?
TN: Sure, they can make the NCAA Tournament, so we'll call that the ceiling. Now, will they make the tournament? That looks quite unlikely at this point, given that Syracuse is just 11-7 overall and 1-4 in the ACC. For it to happen, I think SU needs to win at least three of four games that I see as "swing" games -- this one, Notre Dame, Florida State (home) and Pittsburgh. Do that and they'll probably be on the bubble, so long as they win the games they "should" win -- Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, at Boston College and NC State.
BSD: Do you notice any differences in style of play/philosophy now that Jim Boeheim has returned from his suspension?
TN: No, not really. Mike Hopkins has been around the program so long that nothing really changed schematically when Boeheim was gone. However, the team is 7-2 with Boeheim this season and 4-5 without him, which might not be a coincidence. It'll be interesting to see if his return to the bench coincides with a season turnaround.
BSD: As the season progresses, how big of a concern is Syracuse's lack of depth? They're currently last nationally in bench minutes.
TN: It's a concern, particularly at point guard. Most expected sophomore point guard Kaleb Joseph to be vastly improved this season, but that hasn't happened, and freshman point guard Franklin Howard just doesn't provide consistently good minutes. That means Michael Gbinije, Syracuse's best player, spends the majority of games at point guard. That in itself is unfortunate for the Orange, because he's more effective when he's able to play off the ball.
BSD: Due to the 2-3 zone defensive scheme, Syracuse has greatly struggled with defensive rebounds. Given that one of Wake's biggest strengths is offensive rebounding, do you see this area as the key to the game?
TN: I don't necessarily see it as the key. You're right that Wake should be dominate on the offensive boards, which will obviously impact the game. But Syracuse's success this season has generally depended more so on how it shoots from beyond the arc, so look for that to be a key as well.
BSD: Who do you have in this one?
TN: I've gone back and forth with this one all week. I really think it's a toss-up. I picked Syracuse to win, 72-70, with my official prediction at TNIAAM, so I'll stick to my guns there. But this really could go either way.
Many thanks to Michael Burke for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow him on Twitter @michaelburke47. For all things Syracuse, be sure to check out Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. They do an exceptional job covering the Orange.