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Syracuse enters Saturday’s game in the Carrier Dome against Lehigh coming off a two-game losing streak. The Orange fell to Villanova in Madison Square Garden, and then to former Big East rival Georgetown.
SU (5-5, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) sits at .500 overall with five nonconference losses, just the second time that’s happened in program history. The first was in 2016-17 when the Orange missed the NCAA Tournament and were eliminated in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Here’s what our beat writers predict will happen against Lehigh (1-8, 0-0 Patriot League) on Saturday at 6 p.m.:
Andrew Crane (4-6)
Syracuse 84, Lehigh 65
There is still plenty of time for Syracuse to fix its spiraling season. Though they lost five nonconference games for the second time in program history, with the first year en route to an NIT berth, enough opportunities still exist in conference play for the Orange to pick up key wins. But if SU loses a game like this against Lehigh, a team with KenPom adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies that rank outside of the top 300, that would be the low point in a season of lows — with brief highs against Florida State and Indiana — and would really position Syracuse poorly heading into conference play. Look for the Orange to avoid that trap, though, and use this as a way to awaken some of their streaky shooters on offense and win their first game by a double-digit margin in over a month.
Roshan Fernandez (5-5)
Syracuse 90, Lehigh 70
Lehigh sits outside the KenPom top-300 and is the worst opponent Syracuse will face this season. It’s true that Syracuse has struggled defensively, despite the 1-1-3 zone adjustment. It’s true that Syracuse hasn’t put together a complete shooting performance and hasn’t developed consistency scoring the basketball. And it’s true that the Orange have lost five nonconference games for just the second time in program history. But they won’t stoop even lower on Saturday, and they’ll be able to lean on their highly touted offense in Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim and Joe Girard III, among others. And if — somehow — they do, their NCAA Tournament hopes are going to be in serious jeopardy.
Gaurav Shetty (5-5)
Lehighs and lows
Syracuse 80, Lehigh 64
It’s becoming more and more difficult to predict how Syracuse will play in any given game. The loss to Georgetown marked another game the Orange should have won. Syracuse went from shooting over 50% in the first half to shooting 9-for-23 in the final 12 minutes as the Hoyas came back to win it. I could add a bunch of stats in here describing how bad Lehigh is, but the fact of the matter is Lehigh has just one win this season. This should be a simple win for Syracuse, but if the Orange wake up Sunday morning having lost to Lehigh, there will be serious questions about their NCAA Tournament hopes.