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Previewing Syracuse

No. 7 North Carolina looks to secure a double-bye in next week’s ACC Tournament with a win over Syracuse in Monday’s home finale. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (23-6, 12-4 ACC) vs. Syracuse (19-10, 9-7 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Monday, 7 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Doris Burke)

Quotable

“North Carolina is arguably the best team in the country when it’s all said and done. That will be a tremendous challenge for us. We played well here, offensively, against them. We had a very poor defensive game against them here so we’re going to have to play well offensively and play better on the defensive end.” – Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Meeting: Syracuse enters Monday’s contest with a 19-10 (9-7 ACC) record. The Orange have won nine of their last 12 games since losing to UNC in early January. Their best wins over that stretch have been a 64-62 win over Duke at Cameron Indoor and a 81-66 victory over Notre Dame in Syracuse.

Gbinije Riding Momentum: Senior guard Michael Gbinije capped off his career at the Carrier Dome with a career-high 34 points against N.C. State in a performance that included an 8-for-13 outing from 3-point range. Gbinije is the Orange’s leading scorer with 17.6 points per game and leading distributor with 4.4 assists per game. In the first matchup against UNC this year, Gbinije couldn’t find his shot, putting up a season-low 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting and 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

Cooney Looks to End Slump: Senior guard Trevor Cooney loves putting up shots against North Carolina, and he’ll be attempting to shoot himself out of a two-game slump Monday night. The Wilmington, Del. native has scored just seven combined points in his last two games on 2-17 shooting, including a 1-of-13 mark from deep. In his past two games against the Tar Heels, Cooney has scored 55 points on 20-of-47 shooting, going 9-for-25 from 3-point range. His high-volume shooting will test UNC’s defensive ability against ball screens.

Inconsistency Defining Roberson: At his best, junior forward Tyler Roberson is Syracuse’s best player on the boards and can become a force in the paint by playing above the rim. At his worst, Roberson is inactive on the glass and severely hindering the movement of his team’s offense. He’s a mirror image of UNC forwards Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, who head coach Roy Williams has consistently pushed for more energy and intensity on a game-by-game basis. After Syracuse’s loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 20, Jim Boeheim was very candid about Roberson, saying, "If I had anyone else, he wouldn't play a minute,” regarding the 6-foot-8 forward’s four-rebound outing.

Zoned Out: Syracuse will look to exact revenge on UNC for exposing Boeheim’s patented zone defense in their first meeting, where Brice Johnson dished out eight assists in an effective high-low attack at the Carrier Dome. Since then, the Orange have allowed just 62.5 points per game, and that’s not just because of their snail’s pace on offense. Syracuse is ranked the 40th-most efficient defense in the country by KenPom.com, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions.

Wins Needed: While some media outlets currently have Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament, the Orange are very much a bubble team in need of a big win to solidify their status in the 68-team field. Boeheim’s squad is 5-7 against RPI Top-50 teams, including a 2-4 mark against the Top-25. A win against a Top-10 Tar Heel team on the road would bolster Syracuse’s resume greatly as it looks to return the dance after sitting out last season.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels pulled away late from the Orange in Boeheim’s return from suspension for a 84-73 win at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 9, 2016. Syracuse led 58-57 with 6:46 to play before UNC closed the game on a 27-15 run. Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels with 16 points each, while Joel Berry added 14 points, four assists and four steals.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 6-4.

Projected Starters:
32 Dajaun Coleman (6-9, 268, Sr.) – 5.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
10 Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195, Gr.) - 12.9 ppg, 2.4 apg
0 Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200, Gr.) - 17.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
21 Tyler Roberson (6-8, 226, Jr.) - 9.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg
23 Malachi Richardson (6-6, 205, Fr.) - 13.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Top Reserves:
20 Tyler Lydon (6-8, 210, Fr.) – 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg
1 Franklin Howard (6-4, 190, Fr.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.8 apg

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