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Notre Dame Basketball: Syracuse Preview

Notre Dame looks to get back on track against Syracuse.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The No.15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-3, 5-1 ACC) take on old Big East rival Syracuse (11-8, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish are coming off their first ACC loss of the season on Wednesday when the fell at Florida State 83-80. Despite the loss, Notre Dame is still playing some of the best ball in the country right now, so Jim Boeheim’s squad will have a tall task ahead of them.

Not only will Saturday be Notre Dame’s first home contest in two weeks, but it will also be the student’s first game back since break. Expect a much livelier crowd at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

Game Notes

  • Saturday will be the five year anniversary of Notre Dame’s upset win over No.1 Syracuse. It was also Notre Dame’s last win over the Orange.
  • Since that 2012 matchup, Notre Dame and Syracuse have played four times - once at Purcell Pavilion, three times at the Carrier Dome.
  • Notre Dame is 0-4 in those four matchups.
  • Syracuse leads the all-time series 28-19, including a 14-9 mark at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Mike Brey is 6-16 lifetime vs. the Orange.
  • Notre Dame is ranked 22nd on KenPom, while Syracuse 52nd.
  • According to KenPom, Syracuse is 49th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 90th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
  • The Irish are ranked 8th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 67th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
  • Brey announced on his radio show on Thursday that senior forward Austin Torres would be returning for fifth year next season.
  • Vegasinsider.com has Notre Dame -10.

When: Saturday, January 21, 2017, 12:00pm ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN

How to Watch: ESPN or WatchESPN

Syracuse Orange (11-8, 3-3 ACC)

Despite losing its top three scorers from last year’s Final Four team, Syracuse still had high expectations for this season as they were ranked 19th in the preseason and picked to finish fifth in the ACC. The Orange took their lumps early on as they finished non-conference play with an 8-5 record, including an embarrassing 33 point loss to St. John’s.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Things haven’t been much better in conference play as they are just 3-3, with wins over Boston College, Pittsburgh and Miami. Last time out, the Orange were whacked by North Carolina in Chapel Hill 85-68.

Graduate transfer Andrew White III leads the Orange. He’s really their most dependable scorer. If the Irish can shutdown White, it could be a long day for Syracuse.

Tyler Lydon has seen a jump in production in his sophomore season. His scoring is up 3.5 points and FG% and 3PT% is up .30 as well.

This is an extremely young team, one the youngest team head coach Jim Boeheim has had. 14 of the 19 players on the roster are underclassmen. Taurean Thompson and Tyus Battle were the two huge gets for Boeheim last recruiting cycle. Both four-star recruits according to Rivals, the two freshmen are the team’s third and fourth leading scorers.

Along with being a young team, this is another long and athletic team that the Irish will have to deal with. Seven of the nine players in Syracuse’s rotation are 6’6" or taller. Against other big teams such as Louisville and Florida State, Notre Dame has shown they are still capable of scoring.

Three Weaknesses

Defensive Rebounding: Despite being a big team, Syracuse does not crash the glass all that well. The Orange rank 317th in defensive rebounding %. They will allow their opponents to get a fair share of offensive rebounds. In fact, opponents are hauling in 11.2 offensive boards per game - 338th nationally. Notre Dame has a chance to win the rebounding battle on Saturday.

Foul Shooting: For the second straight game Notre Dame’s opponent does not shoot it well from the charity stripe. Syracuse is shooting just 69% from the free throw line - 186th nationally. The last two games Notre Dame has not been itself from the line, but if this game comes down to foul shooting the Irish are still a safe bet.

Three-Point Defense: The Orange are holding opponents to 31% from the outside, but that number is a bit skewed. Opponents are making 8.3 threes a game against the Orange - 291st nationally. Teams are also averaging 26.1 three-point attempts per game against Syracuse. That ranks 343rd in the country - almost dead last. Notre Dame is an excellent three-point shooting team (40%). If you give them loads of chances from the outside, there is a good chance they’ll convert.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Three-Point Shooting: Syracuse is a funny team. They are shooting just 38% on two point jumpers, which is not too good. But they are shooting 39% from three-point land, which is a pretty high clip (33rd nationally). Notre Dame has defended the three pretty well this season, allowing opponents to shooting just 33% from the outside.

Ball Security: The Orange do a good job at taking care of the ball. They surrender just are 12 turnovers per game (74th natioanlly). This should be a pretty clean game, considering the Irish value the ball at a high level as well.

Rim Protection: The Orange can defend the rim with the best of ‘em. They’re averaging 5.5 blocks per contest, which ranked 22nd overall. We saw Florida State block 11 shots against Notre Dame on Wednesday. This is an area where Notre Dame can be vulnerable.

Orange to Watch

Andrew White III - 6’7", Guard, Graduate Transfer

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Many were expecting him to be a key part of Nebraska’s team this season, but at the last moment he decided to head to Syracuse as a graduate transfer. The former Jayhawk/Cornhusker is Syracuse’s best offensive player. He’s their leading scorer at 15.8 points per game. He’s also loves to shoot the outside shot and for good reason. 63% of his shots at three-pointers and he’s converting on 40% of them. Notre Dame senior guard Steve Vasturia usually draws the matchup opposing team’s best player, so expect him to guard White on Saturday afternoon.

Tyler Lydon - 6’9", Forward, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned before Lydon has seen a spike in production this season. He’s the Orange’s second best offensive option. At 6’9" he doesn’t use his size to his advantage on the offensive side of the ball. He’s shooting 69% at shots at the rim, but he is only getting those shots 27% of the time. He can fall in love with his jump shot, but he has converted on both two-pointer and three-pointers at a successful rate - 42% and 43% respectively. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker - 7.8 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game.

Pick to Click

Matt Farrell - 6’1", Guard, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Syracuse’s length and size, I think this is a good matchup for Farrell. The Orange run their patented 2-3 zone and one of the keys to beating the zone is attacking it. Farrell should be able to use his speed and quickness to penetrate the zone and find open men. I think this could be one of his higher assist total games. Three point shots will be a plenty, and Farrell has been one of Notre Dame’s best outside shooters. I like for him to have a huge game on Saturday.

If Farrell gets off to a slow start, don’t worry he finishes strong. In the second half of Notre Dame’s last four games, Farrell is shooting 50% from the field and three, averaging 11 points, 4.3 assists and has turned it over just twice.

Prediction

Notre Dame 78 - Syracuse 69

I’m going with the Irish. Syracuse can keep it close for a half, but I don’t think they have the firepower to keep up with the Irish for a full game. Aside from Farrell, look for Vasturia to have a big game. He can hurt Syracuse in a similar way as Farrell with his driving and shooting ability.

Look for Bonzie Colson to play the middle of Syracuse’s zone. It’s perhaps the most important position when attacking a zone defense. If Notre Dame can get the ball to the middle of the zone it will open shots up for others elsewhere.

Syracuse doesn’t defend the three well and if you want a chance of beating Notre Dame that is one thing you must do. The Irish will be jacked up to play in front of their home crowd for the first time in two weeks. I like Notre Dame to get their sixth ACC win and keep pace atop the conference.

All stats from TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, UND.com