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ACC Final Preview: No. 2 Irish vs. No. 17 Syracuse

Irish women seeking third consecutive conference crown against a surging Syracuse team that has won its last 12 games.

Final/ACC Tournament: No. 2 Notre Dame (30-1, 16-0 ACC) vs. No. 17 Syracuse (25-6, 13-3 ACC)
Date: March 6, 2016
Place: Greensboro Coliseum; Greensboro, NC
Time: 12:30 pm ET
TV: ESPN/WatchESPN
Opponent nickname: Orangewomen
Head coach: Quentin Hillsman
Location: Syracuse, NY
How They Got Here: Notre Dame defeated Duke (83-54) and then held off a pesky Miami team (78-67) to advance to the final while the Orangewomen notched wins against NC State (80-61) and Louisville (80-75)

HISTORY IS (MOSTLY) ON OUR SIDE

The Irish and Syracuse have met 31 times in their series history, with Notre Dame owning a 29-2 all-time advantage, which includes an active 16-game series-winning streak. Two of those meetings occurred during the post-season when the squads were still members of the Big East: Notre Dame defeated the Orange, 70-55 in its first-ever Big East post-season game in the tournament quarterfinals on March 3, 1996 before Syracuse notched an 84-79 win exactly six years later on March 3, 2002 in the Big East Championship quarterfinals. The Irish also are 9-1 versus ranked opponents this season, and 5-0 when playing twice in less than 48 hours.

Every season since 2007-08, Syracuse has defeated at least one opponent ranked in the Top 25. This year it has tallied three such notable wins to date. In addition, the last time the Orange lost was after a pair of back-to-back setbacks at the end of January: at Notre Dame, 90-62, on Jan. 21 and at home versus Louisville, 71-53, on Jan. 25. Syracuse avenged the latter defeat by ousting the Cardinal in the ACC semifinal, which leaves the Irish looming on the horizon.

A LOT OF BRI’S

A trio of Bri’s dot the two squad’s starting lineups – Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner and the Orange’s Brianna Butler and Briana Day. The 6-foot-3 Turner (and Notre Dame’s leading scorer) had double-digit efforts in each of the team’s first two ACC Tournament games, scoring 10 against Duke and a team-leading 17 versus Miami.

Syracuse’s inside-outside tandem of 5-11 senior Butler and 6-4 junior center Day are their team’s one-two punch, pacing the team with 14.0 and 10.2 ppg, respectively. The duo accounted for 43 of the Orange’s 160 points versus the squad’s first two opponents in the ACC Tournament.

Day’s twin sister Bria also logs about 11 minutes per game off the bench and averages 2.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per outing.

THINGS TO WATCH FOR

In addition to Butler and Day, 5-7 junior guard Alexis Peterson is Syracuse’s other scoring threat with 14.8 ppg, and the squad also has quick hands. They average 13.4 steals per game compared to their opponents’ 6.7. But the Orange only get to the free-throw line about 12 times a game and, as a whole, only hit .667 shots taken from the charity stripe. They also only connect on just under a third of their attempts from beyond the arc.

The Irish, on the other hand, lead the conference in three-point attempts made by percentage, share the ball well (averaging 17.8 assists per game) and have one of the best benches in the country, led by the freshmen duo of Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 75, Syracuse 63


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