ACC Basketball

Irish Head Home to Face Syracuse

SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are in second place in the ACC, two games back of Virginia, a half-game on Duke, winning 12 of 15 conference games. They’ve won three in a row, including two road games, improving to 6-2 outside the South Bend (for the season and in the ACC).

The Syracuse Orange are sitting in sixth place in the conference with a 8-6 record, 17-10 overall. They are just 4-6 in their last ten though and they are in the middle of a brutal seven-game stretch where they are potentially facing seven NCAA Tournament teams. So far, they’ve gone 1-2, losing to Duke and Pittsburgh, with a win over Louisville sandwiched in between.

FIVE DEEP THOUGHTS:

  • Notre Dame continues to be one of the better teams getting to the free throw line, which is pretty impressive considering they don’t have a a lot of size to bang around inside. Even better, lately they can’t seem to miss. After missing 11 of 17 free throws against Duke, the Irish have missed just five of their last 53 attempts (90.5%).
  • It’s possible Syracuse could be without their iron man, Trevor Cooney, but the latest word is he will probably play. My question is, do Orange fans really want him to? Sorry, but Cooney is a shooter who can’t shoot, even before he got hurt. I mean, he’s been brutal. He’s one for his last 15, four out of his last 28. Go back even further and look at just his specialty, the three-ball…since the Clemson game way back on January 17, Cooney is just 19-82 from three (23%). He’s like my wife at the blackjack table, down a grand, yet keeps throwing down money. If I’m Notre Dame and he’s playing, I go, “have at it, bro,” and get out of the way.
  • This should be fun, the Syracuse Orange are first in the ACC in steal%, 18th in the nation (Ken Pom). Yet, Notre Dame is second in the nation in turnover%, meaning they don’t turn the ball over. Something has to give.
  • ¬†Notre Dame is second in the nation in offensive adj. efficiency and first in effective FG%. They hit threes, they drive and score, they drive and kick for scores, they are the Ron Jeremy of ACC basketball. However, the key for Syracuse is to make sure when the Irish miss, they don’t get another chance in that possession. On the other end, the Cuse need to make sure that when they miss their shots, they attack the glass and not just with Rakeem Christmas, who is 10th in the ACC in defensive rebounding…I’m looking at you Tyler Roberson, who is a pretty solid rebounder in his own right.
  • Five players on Notre Dame’s squad average over nine points per game, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s all on Jerian Grant, who is responsible for 42% of the Irish’s points. Stop him, win the game. Of course that’s easier said than done, especially when Jim Boeheim won’t ever abandon the zone. Using an effective high screen two years ago, Grant scored 15 points and dished out four assists against the Orange.

FINAL THOUGHT:
To beat the zone, you have to shoot over the zone and that’s the one thing the Irish can do well. I love Pat Connaughton, Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem from deep. Michael Gbinije will get his, as he’s arguable the second best player on the court and should be a mismatch against anyone guarding him, but I like the way the Irish are playing right now.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Notre Dame, 80-74

 

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