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Preview: Wake Forest @ Syracuse

The Demon Deacons seek consecutive ACC road wins for the first time since 2009

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-7, 3-4), fresh off of their first ACC road win in three years, now try to start a new streak—a winning streak, as they head north to take on the Syracuse Orange (11-9, 3-4).

ACC Network will have this game at 8PM, and it will also be available on the WatchESPN app for those outside of blackout territory (also known as the ACC footprint).

With the current snowy weather up in Syracuse there may be a smaller crowd than usual at the Carrier Dome, so that could be a minor victory for Wake Forest.

All games in the ACC are big, especially when the standings are so bunched early in the season, but tonight is a huge game for both teams as they try to get back to .500 in the conerence.

Syracuse will attempt to avoid a three-game ACC losing streak, and Wake Forest is trying to win back-to-back ACC road games for the first time in almost 8 years.

While Wake Forest would love to have this game, Syracuse is getting backed into a corner, and needs this game to get headed in the right direction. The Orange have played the 13th easiest conference schedule, compared to 9th for the Deacs, and yet are still a game under .500.

As discussed in an article earlier today, Syracuse still runs their vaunted 2-3 zone under HOF coach Jim Boeheim. While the zone has not been as effective this year as it usually is, it is still a unique animal that must be treated with care and precision to break down.

Wake Forest boasts the 13th best offense in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy, while Syracuse holds the 103rd ranked defense in the country. On the flip side, the Orange are 51st offensively, and Wake sits at 124th defensively.

This is the definition of a toss-up game where both teams likely feel like the game is there for the taking. KenPom projects a 79-78 Syracuse victory, and the percentages are 50% for both sides. He has yet to incorrectly predict a Wake Forest game this season, sitting at a bizarre 19-0 in picking winners. Hopefully tonight will be the night that changes all that.

In conference play Syracuse has relied heavily on the services of Andrew White, Tyler Lydon, and Thus Battle. The trio has played all 40 minutes 8 times total in the 7 ACC games thus far, and gone over 33 minutes a piece in nearly every single game.

The benefit of playing a zone, even an aggressive one, is lack of foul trouble, and saving energy to play a lot of minutes.

The substitution patterns have been slightly bizarre, for lack of a better word. Boeheim relied heavily on point guard Frank Howard throughout the non-conference schedule before effectively giving the reigns to transfer John Gillon. On Saturday, Gillon logged just 10 minutes though compared to Howard’s 29. It seems that Gillon will start tonight, but I have no idea at this juncture who will get the most minutes.

On defense we all know what to expect out of Syracuse—-traps, over-pursuing, and clogging of passing lanes to create turnovers and bad shots. On the offensive side, Syracuse depends on reliable 3-point shooting (38.6% on the year), protecting the ball, and decent offensive rebounding.

Lydon, aside from John Collins, may be one of the best improved sophomore “big men” (stretch-four’s in actuality) in the ACC. At 6-9, 223, Lydon has put up a 123 offensive rating to go with an impressive 43% from behind the arc. If Wake can figure out a way to limit Lydon and transfer Andrew White, they have a good shot at pulling off another road victory.

Projected Starting Lineups


PG- John Gillon (Gr. Sr, 6-0, 178)

SG- Tyus Battle (Fr, 6-6, 205)

SF- Andrew White (Gr. Sr, 6-7,210)

PF- Tyler Lydon (So, 6-9, 223)

C- Taurean Thompson (Fr, 6-8, 226)

Wake Forest

PG- Bryant Crawford (So., 6-3, 200)

SG- Keyshawn Woods (So., 6-3, 205)

SF- Austin Arians (Grad Sr., 6-3, 205)

PF- John Collins (So., 6-10, 235)

C- Dinos Mitoglou (Jr., 6-10, 255)

Overall I think this is a pretty advantageous matchup for Wake Forest’s offense vs. the Syracuse defense. It is strange to think that Wake has a top 15 offense, but they have put up 90+ points in the past two games, and now look to exploit the Syracuse 2-3 zone.

The Orange have been stout at home, defeating three ACC opponents by 49 points (16.3 PPG), but those teams are a combined 5-14 so far in conference play.

The Deacs have a penetrating point guard, a stretch four, a big man who can PnR, and shooter to complement on the wings. If they are patient and work the ball enough then I believe they can systematically pick apart the zone.

Maybe it’s the optimism from the N.C. State game and I am getting ahead of where Wake is on the year, but I think the Deacs ride the wave of success from the past two games and win this game fairly easily.

Wake- 82

Syracuse- 70

Comments are welcome as always, and I’m really excited to watch Wake Forest play tonight.