Syracuse men’s basketball opponent preview: What to know about North Carolina

first_imgSyracuse (11-7, 3-2 Atlantic Coast) travels to No. 11 North Carolina (16-3, 4-1) on Monday at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill in search of its first road victory of the year. North Carolina is coming off a 96-83 win over No. 9 Florida State while the Orange has won three of its last four games, its best stretch since November. SU has yet to beat a ranked team and hasn’t yet won on the road, however. Monday provides that chance in a Final Four rematch.Here’s what you need to know about the Tar Heels.All-time series: North Carolina leads, 8-4Last time they played: The Orange lost, 83-66, to the Tar Heels in the Final Four in Houston on April 2, 2016. Top-seeded UNC converted on 53.8 percent of its field goals compared to SU’s 40.9 percent. Trevor Cooney (22 points), Malachi Richardson (17 points) and Michael Gbinije (12 points) — each of whom played his final Syracuse game that night — led the way for the Orange in the scoring department. SU was also outrebounded 43-31. North Carolina pounded Syracuse inside with 50 points in the paint, too much for the Orange to handle.The North Carolina report: The Tar Heels average 14.4 seconds per possession, which ranks 10th in the country, per Kenpom.com. North Carolina likes to push the pace and score in transition when it has the chance. Junior Joel Berry averages 16.2 points per game, ranks 67th in the country in offensive rating, per Kenpom and leads UNC at point guard. In addition to Berry, three other players average double-digit points: junior guard/forward Justin Jackson (17.9), senior forward Isaiah Hicks (12.7) and senior forward Kennedy Meeks (12.5). While UNC has depth off the bench, those four are the key names to know.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I think they’re probably one of the top three, four teams in the country when they play their game,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re a tremendous basketball team. Lot of veteran guys, lot of big guys, veteran guards. I think they put up a bunch of points today against a really, really good Florida State team. So they’re really good. It’ll be a great challenge.”How Syracuse beats North Carolina: Syracuse needs to play near flawlessly. And the Orange hasn’t done that much this year. To pinpoint just one area would be severely overlooking how much better North Carolina is, at least on paper. The Orange’s defense must be active the way it was in wins against Miami, Pittsburgh and Boston College. Its offense must flow from the point guards commanding the team, from Andrew White and Tyus Battle knocking down 3-pointers and from Tyler Lydon scoring inside. The Tar Heels rank fourth nationwide with 89.3 points per game and 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Kenpom. That means SU’s defense must be in tip-top shape to slow them down and its offense must be equally as good to hang around.Stat to know: 42.3 — North Carolina’s offensive rebounding rate, per Kenpom. That ranks No. 1 in the nation.Player to watch: Kennedy Meeks, forward, No. 3Meeks poses a dangerous threat for the Orange because of his ability to both score and rebound. He leads the Tar Heels with 9.5 rebounds per game and his 12.5 points per game have mostly come around the basket. Meeks shoots on 25.7 percent of possessions when he’s in the game, which ranks 395th in the country, according to Kenpom. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 15, 2017 at 5:53 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschwedslast_img