Syracuse University basketball has not left the state this season on the way to a 10-0 start. In the process, the Orange has claimed the top spot in both polls.
Saturday evening, however, the team will face a rowdy North Carolina State (6-3) team eager to avenge last season's loss and "make a statement" against the top team in the land. SU will head into a sold out RBC Center in the middle of ACC country, where the Orange will become more familiar in the coming years.
The Wolfpack is similar to the Orange when it comes to scoring depth. Five different players average double-figures in scoring and another player averages 9.8 points per contest. Though unlike SU in the turnover department, N.C. State is averaging 13.7 blunders per game, and actually has a negative turnover margin through nine games.
Players to Watch
Scott Wood, a junior forward, has made 160 three-point field goals in his career at State. This season, he is the No. 2 player in the country when it comes to field goal percentage from deep (56.8 %) and he averages just over a trio of treys per game. Syracuse will likely utilize the 2-3 zone as usual, which lends itself to open shooters from deep – something Virginia Tech and Stanford exploited early against SU.
In order to slow down Wood, who is the only lethal shooter from three-point land on the roster, the Orange's guards will have to rotate well atop the zone. Wood is also 6-foot-7, so he has the length and height advantage over every guard on the Syracuse roster.
Wood isn't alone as a dangerous player though, as long as Lorenzo Brown is healthy. The tall guard is a stat-stuffer and he may give the zone more issues than Wood will. Brown averages 5.9 assists per game to go along with 12 points each time out, and he is no slouch on the defensive end with a solid ability to get into the passing lanes. Brown ranks just outside the top 10 nationally with 2.8 steals per game.
Guards who can create off of the dribble for themselves or others have given the Orange fits in the past, so the bigs will have to step up sooner than they want to in the zone, meaning the help defenders on the wings will need to rotate quickly in order to prevent easy baskets.
For Syracuse, the offense will need to prove efficient. Outside shooting has been a let-down thus far, and it has yet to cost the team a win. In a hostile environment, it may take a few conversions from deep to swing the momentum back into SU's favor. Look for Kris Joseph to control the offense with good shot selection while Brandon Triche continues to play aggressively towards the basket, which will eventually allow for him to have some space to bury what may be much-needed three-pointers.
The test for ‘Cuse should be a fun one at 6:45 p.m. EST.