Syracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about North Carolina

first_img Published on March 31, 2016 at 12:01 am Syracuse (23-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) will face off against its second straight conference opponent, when it plays North Carolina (32-6, 14-4) in the Final Four on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. in Houston. The Tar Heels haven’t lost a game since Feb. 27, a stretch that includes a win over Syracuse.The matchup guarantees an ACC team will have an opportunity to play for the national championship. Syracuse is playing in its first Final Four since 2013 and hasn’t won a championship since 2003. UNC’s 19 Final Fours is the most of any school, and it will be its first since 2009.Here’s everything you need to know about the Tar Heels.All-Time SeriesSaturday will mark the 12th all-time meeting between the two schools. Syracuse is 4-7 and has lost the last three meetings.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLast Time They PlayedSyracuse held ACC-leading UNC close at the Dean Dome on Feb. 29, before eventually falling 75-70. Four players scored in double-figures for the Orange, led by 17 points from Michael Gbinije. The Orange had a chance to tie with 10 seconds to play, but instead of taking a 3 to tie, Gbinije drove to the basket and lost the handle. That spelled the end of SU’s upset bid.“I didn’t make a good decision given the outcome,” Gbinije said after the game.The Tar Heels had 19 offensive rebounds compared to 21 on the defensive end but scored just 16 second-chance points because of it. Syracuse shot just 5-of-20 from behind the arc and North Carolina shot 6-of-25.The North Carolina ReportAs hot as Syracuse is right now, North Carolina is hotter. It hasn’t lost since it fell to Virginia on Feb. 27, a stretch that has since included an ACC tournament championship and a run to the Final Four. For much of the regular season, the biggest UNC criticism is that is wasn’t able to beat the best teams. Now, the Tar Heels have compiled wins over Duke, Notre Dame (twice), Virginia, Indiana and Providence in the postseason alone.The Tar Heels have the best offensive efficiency in college basketball, per Kenpom.com, and play basketball at a pretty fast pace — much different from SU’s last opponent, Virginia. UNC has scored at least 83 points in every NCAA Tournament game this year, including 101 in the Sweet 16 win over Indiana. They have the ninth-best block percentage, third-best offensive rebounding percentage and almost never shoot 3-pointers. The Tar Heels score just 19.9 percent of their total points from behind the arc. They also don’t get to the line that much. Brice Johnson leads the Tar Heels in scoring at 17.1 points per game. But the Tar Heels have three more players that average more than 12 points per game.How Syracuse beats North CarolinaThe Orange has done a good job this season of forcing the Tar Heels to shoot from the outside. UNC took 17 first-half 3s in the Feb. 29 game, which was out of character. But UNC had too many second chances, which Syracuse will have to limit. If the game becomes a shootout, SU will probably lose, so the goal should be to keep the game in the 70s and hope that Malachi Richardson is, once again, unguardable.The Orange will need Tyler Roberson to stay plugged in, Trevor Cooney to get good looks at the basket — something he’s typically done against UNC — and make them. Bottom line: It will take a complete effort and a really strong zone defense.Stat to KnowNorth Carolina has not been a good 3-point shooting team this season, but has been absolutely dreadful since the start of conference play. As a team, combining both the nonconfernece and conference seasons, UNC is a 32.1 percent 3-point shooting team. In conference play, it’s shot just 88-of-311 (28.3 percent).Player to WatchMarcus Paige is the one player that actively looks to shoot from the outside, but has done so poorly in the ACC schedule. If he goes off, like say, London Perrantes did, this won’t be good for Syracuse. But if he’s limited like he has been for the majority of the year, the Orange will put itself in better position to get a good win and advance to the national championship game on Monday. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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