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After finishing as the No. 9 seed for this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Syracuse opens against No. 8 Florida State on Wednesday at noon. The teams split their two meetings during the regular season by a combined eight points, with the Orange winning the first on Dec. 4 and the Seminoles taking the second on Jan. 15.
Caleb Mills leads FSU in scoring with 13.0 points per game, and the Seminoles’ Matthew Cleveland won the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year with an 11.4 points per game average across his 26.1 minutes per game. They’ve won three games in a row entering the tournament, while Syracuse has lost four in a row — against Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina and Miami — after it won six of seven before that stretch.
Here’s what The Daily Orange’s beat writers think will happen at the Barclays Center:
Andrew Crane (23-8)
One and done
Florida State 73, Syracuse 70
It’s difficult to pick against Syracuse in March, given the magic of the 2-3 zone and the offensive performances — like Buddy Boeheim’s run his junior year — that’ve defined years past. But if there was ever a year to do so, this would be the one. Based on the shots attempted by both teams, SU only wins its two meetings against Florida State 23% and 50% of the time, according to the ShotQuality numbers, despite the fact that the Orange won the former and came within a missed Jimmy Boeheim hookshot of potentially winning the latter.
Both teams have been derailed by injuries, and I think Syracuse has a somewhat decent chance of advancing to the quarterfinals if Symir Torrence returns. Still, Florida State has started to get healthy and string together strong games at the right time of the season, while the Orange’s season has been in free fall since they couldn’t pull out a close victory against Notre Dame. And that free fall will continue, until it ultimately ends at the final buzzer, on Wednesday.
Roshan Fernandez (19-12)
Not the end… yet
Syracuse 80, Florida State 77
Florida State ranks 319th in 3-point defense, according to KenPom, and that’s enough for me to pick the Orange. SU beat FSU in both teams’ ACC opener back in early December, but the Orange dropped the second contest when the Seminoles converted 12 3-pointers. I think Syracuse is capable of outpacing the Florida State offense, and behind a couple offensive rebounds, it should be able to produce enough points to do so. Buddy managed just six points in the first contest, but he had 18 in the second.
The Miami loss was just the latest example of a crushing defeat where Syracuse should’ve won. I don’t think SU will duplicate that against Florida State. They’ll do enough to keep the season rolling for one more game, with the inevitable contest with top-seeded Duke looming in the quarterfinals.
Gaurav Shetty (20-11)
Does it even matter???
Syracuse 77, Florida State 74
In a never-ending quest to find newer, more heartbreaking ways to lose, Syracuse blew a five-point lead with one minute left against Miami by turning the ball over on three straight inbound plays. The loss cemented a four-game losing streak in a stretch that could’ve given the Orange some notable wins but in reality just exposed the flaws of this team that likely ruled it out of NCAA Tournament contention back in January. The loss also handed Jim Boeheim his first regular season under .500 in his 46-year career.
Now, the Orange once again have the chance to make history for all the wrong reasons. The last time they lost five games in a row was the 1968-69 season — also the last time they had a losing season. Syracuse is better on paper than Florida State, but that didn’t matter against Colgate, Georgetown or Pitt. Still, I’ll take SU in a coin flip to beat FSU.
Even if the Orange win, they’d have a date with Duke, who both Jim and Buddy have admitted that SU cannot beat unless they have a miracle performance. So, the game against Florida State is just a matter of whether SU wants to make history again for the wrong reasons, or notch a win and go out swinging against Duke.
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