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Syracuse is coming off perhaps its most convincing victory of the season, a 22-point win over Wake Forest in the Carrier Dome. The Orange paired an all-around strong offensive performance, led by Buddy Boeheim’s season-high 30 points, with a consistent second-half defensively to lift themselves to a much-needed conference win.
With the WF victory, SU snapped a two-game losing streak, the latter of which came at the hands of Pittsburgh in perhaps the Orange’s worst loss of the season. Now, Syracuse will face the Wolfpack, who’ve lost four of their last five games. The Wolfpack allowed a season-high 100 points in their most recent contest, a 20-point loss to North Carolina.
Here’s everything to know about NC State (10-12, 3-8 Atlantic Coast) ahead of its game against SU:
Syracuse leads, 10-6.
Last time they played
The Orange won all three games against the Wolfpack last season, the most recent of which came in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. They scored their most-ever points (89) in an ACC Tournament game behind 20 first-half points for Buddy Boeheim and a 16-3 run to open the second half.
“Our offense has been there all year,” head coach Jim Boeheim said after that game. “We’re a very good offensive team. When we make shots, we’re really good. Today, we made shots.”
Syracuse advanced to play No. 1 seed Virginia in the next round of the ACC Tournament where it was eliminated. But the win over NC State was enough to boost SU into an NCAA Tournament bid and No. 11 seed.
KenPom gives NC State a 52% chance of winning with a projected score of 79-78.
The NC State report
The Wolfpack are very similar to Syracuse — driven by their offense. They rank 38th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 232nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Led by Dereon Seabron, who averages 9.0 rebounds per game, the Wolfpack are a strong offensive rebounding unit too. The problem is the defensive glass, where they rank 306th in the nation, according to KenPom. Behind Seabron, no other player averages more than five rebounds per game.
The Wolfpack’s offense is led by a balance of their top three scorers: Seabron, Terquavion Smith and Jericole Hellems. All three average over 15 points a game, and all three provide different scoring options. Seabron’s points come primarily from inside the arc, while Smith and Hellems have made the most 3-pointers on the team — 59 and 51, respectively.
NC State is good at taking care of the ball on offense — it ranks 13th in offensive turnover percentage. The biggest question will be its defense and if its 307th-ranked 3-point defense can hold up against Syracuse’s usual barrage of 3-point attempts.
How Syracuse beats NC State
The Syracuse-NC State matchup brings a clash between two efficient offenses and two awfully inefficient defenses. The Orange rank 228th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, just four spots higher than NC State. At 232nd in the nation, the Wolfpack are the worst-ranked defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Against Wake Forest, Syracuse forced 17 turnovers, the most in an ACC game this season. Buddy said that it was Syracuse’s defense that made the difference in the victory — that made it possible for the Orange to notch 55 points in the second half.
Behind Buddy and Cole Swider, Syracuse was hot from 3-point range. Against the Wolfpack, who rank 307th in the nation in 3-point defense, per KenPom, knocking down 3-point looks will be key for the Orange’s offense to carry them to another victory. That should open up interior shots for Jesse Edwards and Jimmy Boeheim to score as well.
NC State’s defense is struggling. It gave up 100 points in its last game against North Carolina, tied for its most of the season. If Syracuse’s offense can continue rolling, that should be enough to beat this NC State defensive unit.
Stat to know: 325th in assists per field goal made ratio
NC State ranks 325th in the nation in assists per field goals made, per KenPom, meaning its buckets don’t frequently come on assisted passes. Instead, the Wolfpack prefer to drive and score as individuals. That’s primarily through their three main scorers — Seabron, Smith and Hellems — who all average 15.0 points per game or more. NC State ranks 290th in Division I in assists per game (11.5), so Syracuse will need to focus on stopping individuals from driving inside.
Player to watch: Terquavion Smith, No. 0, guard
Smith, a true freshman, has already had seven games with over 20 points for the Wolfpack. He notched a career-high 34 points in NC State’s victory over North Carolina on Saturday, shooting 10-of-21 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. He won back-to-back ACC Freshman of the Week honors back in December and currently ranks second in the conference among freshman scorers (behind only Duke’s Paolo Banchero).
“I don’t know that there’s another guy that I’ve ever coached that is as confident as this kid,” NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said of Smith. “He scores the basketball, he loves to play.”