Syracuse enters the game on a four game winning streak and victors in seven of their last eight games. After starting 0-4 in conference, the Orange sit above the .500 mark in ACC play at 7-5. They have done that with impressive wins over Notre Dame, Duke and Florida State among others. Key to their improved play is getting more from the center position.
The combination of Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Lydon combined for 8 points and 14 rebounds against Duke, 20 points and 13 rebounds against Notre Dame, 17 and 9 against Georgia Tech, 16 and 12 against Virginia Tech and 23 points and 13 rebounds against Florida State. If Syracuse continues to get that type of production from the center spot, it makes them a different team.
Also key has been Malachi Richardson, who has become a consistently productive threat for the Orange despite being a true freshman. The emergence of his dribble-drive game has made him a different player. His play along with Michael Gbinije gives Syracuse two go-to scorers who can also light it up from the outside.
Boston College, on the other hand, comes in without a win in conference play. Their last win was back in 2015 on December 30th against New Hampshire, pulling out a five point victory at home. They almost picked up their first against North Carolina on Tuesday, but fell by three. It was the first ACC game that the Eagles kept within single digits.
Syracuse, ironically, picked up their first conference win against the Eagles one month ago. It was a 62-40 victory in the Carrier Dome. Boston College shot just 32% from the field and 23% from beyond the arc in that one, turning it over 16 times.
Eli Carter is Boston College's best player. He is 10th in the ACC in scoring at 16.5 points per game. He is also 10th in assists at 4.1 per game.
What to Watch For
Intensity: Having nearly pulled an upset for their first conference win of the season, the Eagles will be hungry and give their best effort. Syracuse is the better team, clearly, but have to come to play. They need to play with the same intensity and urgency that saw them dominate Florida State the last time out.
Rebounding: Syracuse has only lost once all season when outrebounding their opponent. That was a close home loss to North Carolina. The Orange controlled the boards in the last meeting, outrebounding Boston College by eight. The Eagles are not a terribly big or physical team, so Syracuse has the edge inside. So much of rebounding, however, is effort and attitude. Interestingly, Syracuse is the worst team in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage, while Boston College is last in offensive rebounding percentage.
Turnovers: Syracuse leads the conference in steals per game, while Boston College is 13th in turnover margin. If the Orange can turn the Eagles over like they did in the last matchup, it will lead to transition opportunities and easy buckets on the other end. It will also point towards the intensity factor discussed above. The more intense Syracuse is, the better and more active the zone is on the defensive end of the floor.
Center Position: When Syracuse was struggling early in the season, they were getting nothing from their center. Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Lydon were both providing next to nohting offensively, forcing the Orange to essentially play four on five. During their recent eight game surge, both have stepped up. Watch the combined numbers from these two. When they hit a double-double combined, Syracuse generally wins.
Outside Shooting: Syracuse is first in the conference in three-pointers made per game (9.08) and sixth in three-point shooting (35.8%). Boston College is fifth in three-pointers made (7.58) but just 13th in three-point shooting (33.5%). Syracuse is the only team in the conference to hold teams to under 30% shooting from beyond the arc (29.9%) while the Eagles are 12th in three-point percentage defense (36.5%). If those trends continue, Syracuse should come out on top. If the Eagles hope to pull an upset, it starts with hot shooting from the outside.