As the Boston College Eagles get set to take on the Syracuse Orange Wednesday evening, we break down the Orange with Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician basketball writer Michael Burke.
1. What are your general thoughts about the Orange right now?
Obviously, they're struggling, now sitting at just 10-7 overall in ACC play after starting 6-0 and winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. I wasn't expecting this team to be a great one, but I also wasn't expecting it to struggle this much. Right now, I have a difficult time believing Syracuse will find a way to make the NCAA Tournament, though there's still obviously a long way to go.
2. The Orange has had trouble picking up wins in ACC play thus far. Obviously there has been tough competition, but what has given the Orange trouble in terms of picking up the first win in ACC play?
Well, they've actually been in a position to win each of those games. They held leads in the second half of each game, only to watch each one of those leads slip away. So, given that, the biggest issue has been Syracuse's inability to close out games. Each game has been different. Against Pittsburgh and North Carolina, the Orange were bullied inside down the stretch. Against Miami, they made a number of costly turnovers down the stretch. And against Clemson, Malachi Richardson missed a key free throw in the final minute and Syracuse surrendered a 3 -- which sent the game to overtime -- on the Tigers' final offensive possession, when Syracuse probably should have fouled.
It could just be coincidence, but it's a growing trend and it sure seems like the Orange just tighten up at the worst possible moment. You obviously can't have that and expect to have success in the ACC.
3. Jim Boeheim came back from suspension against UNC. How much of a boost did his return give to the Orange?
Well, they played pretty well for most of that game, so there's a chance it had some effect, but that's a difficult thing to measure. I think we'll get a better sense on what kind of boost he gives the team as the season progresses. The Orange were just 4-5 in his absence, so if they start to string together victories, it'll be hard to deny that he'll have made a positive impact.
4. Who should Eagles fans keep an eye on Wednesday?
Given that the Eagles struggle to defend the 3-pointer, the answer is probably Trevor Cooney. He's had an inconsistent career and started slow this season, but he's been red-hot from beyond the arc over the past six games or so, with his best performance coming on Saturday against North Carolina. He went 5-of-12 from deep and scored 27 points.
5. What are you expecting out of Wednesday’s game?
I expect Syracuse to win a relatively close game. I know Boston College has been struggling, but so has Syracuse, and at this point I'm not expecting the Orange to handily defeat anybody. I'll go Syracuse 68, Boston College 60.