North Carolina (10-5) at (2) Syracuse (15-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 12 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (33,000) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UNC 7-3, Syracuse 10-0. Away Record: UNC 1-2, Syracuse 2-0. Neutral Record: UNC 2-0, Syracuse 3-0. Conference Record: UNC 0-2, Syracuse 2-0. Series Record: North Carolina leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Syracuse Orange put their flawless record on the line this weekend, as they play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC action at the Carrier Dome.
Jim Boeheim's Orange may be the best team in the country, but currently sit behind only Arizona in the polls. Syracuse has run off 15 straight wins in as many games this season, including opening up its first run through the ACC with wins over both Miami-Florida (49-44) and most recently, Virginia Tech (72-52).
Roy Williams' Tar Heels have certainly had their ups and downs this season. North Carolina has posted monster wins over the likes of Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky this season, but sits at just 10-5 on the year with some questionable losses, including three at home already. The team enters this contest still in search of its first league win, after dropping decisions at Wake Forest (73-67) and at home to Miami-Florida (63-57).
These teams are meeting for just the eighth time in history. North Carolina is clinging to a 4-3 series advantage, although Syracuse won the last matchup, an 87-71 decision at Madison Square Garden in 2009.
It's been tough trying to figure out which UNC team will take the floor any given night. The Tar Heels are averaging an impressive 77.7 ppg this year on a decent .455 shooting. The team also enjoys a +6.3 rebounding margin. However, a lack of efficiency at the free-throw line (.623) has been troublesome for the squad. Marcus Paige has made a nice transition into North Carolina's star playmaker. The sophomore guard is the team's top scorer (17.0 ppg) and top distributor (4.4 apg). The scoring depth is nice, with four other Tar Heels boasting of double-digit averages. James Michael McAdoo is second on the team with 14.4 ppg, followed by Brice Johnson (11.2 ppg), Leslie McDonald (11.0 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (10.1 ppg).
The Tar Heels struggled big time at home against Miami last time out, shooting an ugly .308 from the floor, including a mere 5-of-21 effort from behind the arc. McAdoo was the only player to notch double figures in the loss, finishing with 12 points. The usually explosive Paige had an awful shooting performance (2-of-15), finishing with eight points.
Having a sub par offensive performance against Syracuse would not be beneficial, as the Orange have a way of making even the most prolific offensive teams look silly. Syracuse enters this game allowing a meager 59.3 ppg. The team is holding a +5.7 rebounding margin, while forcing nearly 16 turnovers per outing. ACC Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Fair headlines the action at the offensive end of the floor, averaging 17.2 ppg. Jerami Grant (12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) joins Fair in the frontcourt. The backcourt tandem of Trevor Cooney (13.9 ppg) and Tyler Ennis (11.7 ppg) provides balance. Cooney is the team's top sniper (.453 -- 48-of-106), while Ennis is the top distributor (5.6 apg).
The Orange used a 16-0 run over eight minutes of action in the second half to distance themselves from the Hokies, winning their ACC clash running away. Fair posted 17 points to lead all scorers in the game. Ennis finished with 13 points and seven assists, with just one turnover in 36 minutes of work. Grant posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Cooney tacked on 11 points for good measure.
North Carolina has played its best basketball against top tier teams. Syracuse certainly fits into that mold, but may be too strong defensively for the Tar Heels to overcome in the Carrier Dome.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 73, North Carolina 65
01/11 11:36:05 ET