North Carolina vs. Syracuse Prediction – Who’s Got Next

    North Carolina vs. Syracuse prediction and preview. Who’s Got Next analyzes the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four matchup between the Tar Heels and Orange.

    March 28, 2016

    North Carolina vs. Syracuse prediction and preview. Who’s Got Next analyzes the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four matchup between the Tar Heels and Orange.

    How North Carolina Got Here

    The Tar Heels are the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four, rolling through the East Region and winning every game comfortably. North Carolina beat No. 16 83-67 in the first round, beat No. 9 Providence 85-66 in the second round, beat No. 5 Indiana 101-86 in the Sweet 16 and beat No. 6 Notre Dame 88-74 in the Elite Eight

    North Carolina’s Strengths

    UNC is absolutely rolling into Houston, and the Tar Heels are doing it with athleticism and balance. Forward Brice Johnson is a man among boys, a big man who can score inside and out, and loves going to the rim. He is talented in the post, has a nice jump hook and use his length and jumping ability to his fullest advantage. When shooting inside, he lets the ball reach his fingertips before shooting, making his shot nearly impossible to block. He also is a demon on the glass, he’s a great shot blocker, and when he establishes position in the low post, you might as well just count the points. Johnson is probably the best big man left in the tournament. But Johnson isn’t a one-man show. Against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, all five UNC starters scored in double figures, and this is a team that can hurt opponents in so many ways. Guards Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II all can fill up the box score in a hurry, and Paige is a player who can take over when his shot is falling. All three guards help on the glass and are unselfish. Forwards Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks can have their moments, too, and that makes UNC tough to contain.

    North Carolina’s Weaknesses

    North Carolina uses a point-guard-by-committee approach, and although it works for the Tar Heels in terms of keeping the ball moving, leadership can be an issue when UNC struggles. Paige can try to do too much at times, and he has a tendency to try to shoot his way out of slumps at the expense of his team. He can’t afford to fall into that trap in the Final Four. This also isn’t a team that can knock down the three with any consistency. Yes, there are guys who can make the shot, but it’s rare that everyone is hitting from the perimeter at the same time.

    How North Carolina Beats Teams

    North Carolina’s offense is a marvel to watch. When UNC is successful, it’s because the ball keeps moving on offense, and when shots go up, everyone goes to the glass. The Tar Heels also love to turn missed shots into transition opportunities, and that’s where their athleticism really can shine. Johnson is usually the catalyst when things are going well, and UNC’s defense can give opponents huge headaches. Their quickness can rattle opponents, who also have a habit of trying to do too much when they get behind, leading to fast-break chances for UNC.

    How North Carolina Gets Beat

    The Tar Heels aren’t invincible, and when they’ve lost this season, it has been because Johnson doesn’t shoot the ball well and North Carolina falls into a hole early. This isn’t a team that is built to mount a rally from the perimeter, so any comeback has to come off drives to the bucket. If UNC falls in love with the three, that can be a problem. Packing the lane and daring North Carolina to beat you from the outside is a recipe for giving yourself a chance to win.

    How Syracuse Got Here

    Syracuse stunned just about everyone by winning the Midwest Region as a No. 10 seed, which either is a sign that the Orange got hot at just the right time or that the Midwest was the weakest region (it was). Syracuse came out of the Midwest by beating No. 7 Dayton 70-51 in first round, beating No. 15 Middle Tennessee 75-50 in second round, beating No. 11 Gonzaga 63-60 in Sweet 16, and rallying to beat No. 1 Virginia 68-62 in the Elite Eight.

    Syracuse’s Strengths

    Syracuse is long and athletic, and the Orange’s defense is what makes the team tough to beat. ‘Cuse plays a lot of zone, and it forces teams to work hard on every possession to find an open look. Forward Michael Gbinije is the team’s leading scorer, and he’s a workhorse who does a little bit of everything for Jim Boeheim’s team. Gbinije can knock down shots from the perimeter, he can use his outside jumper to set up drives to the bucket. He also is a good rebounder and a fantastic passer whose unselfishness helps keep opponents scrambling on defense. Guard Malachi Richardson provides balance on the floor. He gets to the line, he’s aggressive with the ball and does a nice job of not trying to do too much on the floor. Guard Trevor Cooney is the team’s rudder. He’s a jack-of-all-trades who doesn’t do anything great, but he’s a floor-burn guy who provides toughness while also having the ability to knock down open jumpers. Forward Tyler Roberson and center DaJuan Coleman are both strong rebounders who also can score in the post. They combine for 14.0 points and 13.1 boards a game, making them productive without being too demanding of the ball.

    Syracuses’s Weaknesses

    Boeheim’s teams are never known for their depth, and this year is no exception. Seven players average double figures in minutes, and nobody else really plays a big role for the team. That means the starters log huge minutes, and Gbinije and Cooney average more than 36 a game. Any kind of foul trouble puts the Orange in a hole, but Syracuse’s zone usually helps avoid that situation. The Orange can be a bit loose with the ball, and their chemistry hasn’t always been good on the floor. The other issue for ‘Cuse is the lack of a consistent point guard. Cooney and Richardson are fine in the backcourt, but neither is an undisputed leader, and that can lead to some issues vs. teams with more athletic point guards. Cooney can also get a bit too emotional at times, which shakes him out of his game.

    How Syracuse beats teams

    Syracuse simply wears teams down mentally when the Orange are focused on defense. This isn’t a grind-it-out team, but they are willing to push their opponents to work hard for a shot. This team has bought into Boeheim’s system in a big way, and it shows on the court. This also is a rhythm team, which makes it so dangerous in a tournament setting. Syracuse is at its best when it’s forcing turnovers and allowing Gbinije to get out in transition. ‘Cuse wants to be disruptive and allow its defense to create its offense.

    How Syracuse gets beat

    Syracuse may be disciplined on defense, but Gbinije and Richardson, and sometimes Cooney, can try to do too much on the floor at times. This team’s confidence can be shaken, and although it plays with plenty of heart—as Virginia found out in the Elite Eight—it really is a different team when things are going well. When Syracuse isn’t putting together quality possessions, this team can push to overcome the problems, and everyone tries to be the playmaker who can get his team back on track. Valuing the ball is a key for Syracuse, because when the Orange lose, it’s usually because they allow opponents to get extra possessions by turning the ball over.

    North Carolina vs. Syracuse Prediction

    Syracuse and North Carolina have already met twice this season, and UNC won both meetings, taking home an 84-73 win in New York and scoring a 75-70 win in Chapel Hill. In both of those games, the Tar Heels forced Syracuse’s offense to the perimeter, and ‘Cuse couldn’t respond. The Orange shot less than 30 percent from beyond the arc in both games, and Johnson had a field day in the paint. North Carolina’s ball movement and quickness created a lot of problems for the Orange, and look for UNC to use that same recipe this time around. The Tar Heels will force Syracuse’s offense outside again, and once again ‘Cuse won’t be able to answer the call.

    North Carolina vs. Syracuse Final Score Prediction: North Carolina 83, Syracuse 77

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