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Notre Dame Basketball: Syracuse Orange Q&A

Pat Rick talked to James Szuba over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to understand this Syracuse team, how they match up with ND, and if Jim Boeheim can sing/dance

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, after the celebrating and good-feelings induced by its 30-point shellacking of the NC State Wolfpack on Wednesday night, it’s time to look ahead to the next game for the 12-3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish — a Saturday tilt at the Carrier Dome against the 12-3 Syracuse Orange.

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse is 1-1 in conference play, having defeated Virginia Tech in its conference opener before losing at Wake Forest on Wednesday night.

The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, are 2-0 in the ACC so far with home victories over Georgia Tech and NC State, but have also lost their two best players in BONZIE COLSON (out 8 weeks with a foot fracture) and Matt Farrell (out indefinitely with an injured ankle).

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

So, to try to understand what awaits the Irish at Syracuse on Saturday afternoon, I traded questions and answers with James Szuba over at the Syracuse SB Nation site, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

James’ informative answers to my somewhat-relevant questions are below, so be sure to read through them and arm yourselves with knowledge on the Orange and how they match up with this young Irish team now missing COLSON and Farrell.

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1. Syracuse has been a little up and down this season, with a blowout loss to Kansas and a home loss to St. Bonaventure but also a road win at Georgetown and quality wins over Maryland and Virginia Tech. What’s your feel for this team and how they compare to other recent Syracuse squads?

Syracuse is about right where we expected it to be this season -- a borderline tournament team.

This team is nowhere near where what we’re used to having, as the team is young, but it has regained its identity on the defensive end.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

2. Considering how stacked the ACC is this year, where do you think the Orange will finish in conference? How far can they go in the ACC Tourney and NCAA Tourney (assuming you think they make it)?

I think Syracuse will finish 9-9 in the league, give or take a game.

That should put the Orange squarely on the bubble for a third straight season. One win in the ACC Tournament seems likely. A first or second round exit would be probable after that.

3. This Cuse squad appears to really be a three-headed monster with Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Frank Howard. What does each guy bring to the table, and do they have any glaring weaknesses that can be exploited?

Three headed monster indeed.

Frank is the leader of this team as the lone holdover from the 2016 Final Four team. He’s a veteran that runs the show at point with a pass-first mentality, but turns the ball over a bit too much. He’s scored the ball better than expected.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tyus is the alpha scorer who can get it done from all three levels and in the zone, but doesn’t pass the ball so well.

Oshae has rebounded the ball at an incredible rate and scores well in traffic and around the rim. He gets to the line quite a bit but his three leaves a bit to be desired.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

4. With guys like Paschal Chukwu, Bourama Sidibe, Brissett, Battle, and Howard, the Orange have some serious size and length. How’s the zone defense looking, and does this ND team have any shot of beating it without someone who can score from all over like Bonzie Colson?

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The zone has been very good from a defensive and rebounding standpoint overall. Notre Dame definitely still has a shot as the one weakness of the zone has been defending the three.

5. Colson’s absence might actually improve the ND defense slightly, but like most Brey teams, the Irish are still not a great defensive team. Considering Syracuse shoots 30% from 3 as a team, is the key to stopping the Orange to force as many jumpers as possible?

I don’t see a scenario where Syracuse just starts chucking threes, but that’s certainly a good strategy.

I wouldn’t give Frank and Tyus too much space though. Tyus is a decent threat from range and Frank has shot the ball really well these last few games.

6. Jim Boeheim vs. Mike Brey in both a dance-off and a karaoke contest. Who wins each, and what one song does each choose for their performance in each?

Brey wins both easily.

I’m not sure you could even entice Boeheim to do either. But if for some reason he had to, he’d probably sing something by Bruce Springsteen.

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Syracuse
Jim belting out some Bruce during a game
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

7. Gimme a prediction - winner, score, and why you think that.

I’ll say Syracuse wins 72-69 on account of the Orange being better at home and Notre Dame not having Bonzie.

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I just want to give a big shout out to James for trading Q&As with me (you can find my answers to his questions here). Please be sure to follow him and Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician on Twitter, and also head over to their site for any and all Syracuse Orange updates and analysis before, during, and after Saturday’s showdown at the Carrier Dome.

Go Irish!