Syracuse (16-8, 5-6) is an 11 seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology, meaning that a loss to Wake Forest (9-15, 2-10) for the second time this season could prove to be very damaging to its NCAA Tournament chances.
The Demon Deacons will look to sweep the Orange today following a 73-67 victory in Winston-Salem last month behind Bryant Crawford’s 19 points.
Wake Forest has not had much success since that win over Syracuse, winning just one game in that time span (Florida State last week).
A good thing for Wake Forest is that it will have Keyshawn Woods for this matchup. Woods was injured just three minutes into the game last month and has missed a couple of games since then due to the knee contusion he sustained.
Syracuse is led by 6-6 sophomore guard Tyus Battle’s 19.7 PPG. Battle has been extremely impressive as of late, scoring 25 points in a much-needed road victory over Louisville on Monday.
If Wake Forest is going to win this game it will have to keep Syracuse off of the free throw line, which could prove to be a tough task. The Orange have thrived in conference play at getting to the line, ranking first in the ACC with a 37% FTA/FGA rate. On the flip side, Wake Forest is the worst in the ACC at fouling opponents, resulting in a remarkable 41% free throw rate defensively.
Syracuse got to the free throw line 23 times in Wake Forest’s win on January 3rd, but the Deacs shot 48% from behind the three-point line and relied heavily on Crawford in the middle of the 2-3 zone to get good looks.
Overall I am unrealistically optimistic about the Deacs chances today. This is a game that Syracuse simply cannot afford to lose, while Wake Forest doesn’t have anything to play for as far as postseason aspirations, but for some reason I think the Deacs will buck the trend of losing on the road in conference play (5-65 in the last 70 ACC road games), and get a hard-fought victory.
Wake has been right there at the end of the several games this season and they have to get over the hump eventually. I am hoping today is the day that it will weather the home team at the end and come out on top.
KenPom likes the Orange 70-63, while Vegas has the spread at -7.5 for Syracuse.