ACC Basketball

The Cardinals head north

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After being on the wrong side of a home upset to NC State, the Cardinals have dropped two of three as they head up to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse. The Orange have actually played better ball, but it hasn’t translated into more wins, as they blew a double-digit lead to Duke this past weekend.

Syracuse will rely on Michael Gbinije yet again, as he has become one of the ACC’s best scorers, averaging 18.7 in his last seven games, scoring over 20 in his last three, including 27 against the Blue Devils. He’s been hot from deep, making 18 threes in his last seven, but he’s a smooth penetrator and is capable of attacking the rim.

Inside, Rakeem Christmas needs to get back on track. Louisville will challenge him inside with a combination of Mangok Mathiang and Montrezl Harrell and they won’t be afraid to double up the Orange big man, since he’s tended to struggle when doubled.

Yet, what will Louisville do offensively against the Orange zone? Against the Blue Devils, the Cardinals struggled to attack the zone, relying on the long ball and hitting just four of 25 from deep and that was against a team full of freshmen playing a 2-3 zone for the first time. How are they going to perform against Syracuse’s defenders who are longer and are experienced in this D?

Look for a lot more high screens to get Chris Jones and Terry Rozier chances to attack the middle. If the pair get into the lane, Christmas will come up for the block, thus leaving Cardinal bigs open underneath. Syracuse will keep it close by forcing turnovers and getting buckets in transition, but don’t be surprised if Trevor Cooney goes 2-12, A) because that’s what he does and B) the Cardinals are the best in the conference shutting down the three-ball.

UPDATE: Chris Jones was suspended Tuesday and that changes everything. Just don’t see how the Cardinals win with one-third of the big three missing.


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