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NC State heads to the Dome to face another standard-issue Syracuse team

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NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Time passes and things change, except in Syracuse, where the Orange seem to roll out the exact same team with the exact same low ceiling year after year. Over the last half decade or so, Syracuse has gotten used to living on a bubble, with a team that has almost no bench, stuck somewhere between pretty good and mediocre.

Guess what: that’s exactly how you can describe the 2021 Orange.

— Since Syracuse went 14-4 in the ACC in 2014, its best record in league play is 10-8. Including this year and moving backward, the Orange have ranked 341st, 349th, 256th, 351st, and 331st in bench minutes dating to 2017. Jim Boeheim’s reliance on a short bench is nothing new, but the front-line talent is not the caliber it was in Syracuse’s Big East days.

— The Orange are No. 45 in the Pomeroy Ratings as of Saturday afternoon, with the No. 31 offense and No. 64 defense.

— Syracuse’s offense ranks third in league play with an average of 1.08 points per possession—its success has been predicated on taking care of the ball while shooting a high percentage in the paint and at the free throw line. The Orange have made 84% of their free throws in ACC games.

— In the starting lineup, the Orange have a trio of familiar faces in Joe Girard (6’1, 195), Buddy Boeheim (6’6, 195) and Marek Dolezaj (6’10, 201). Girard and Boeheim both are primarily jump shooters, and Girard really struggles to score effectively inside the arc. This year his 3FG% (35.2) is higher than his 2FG% (34.7). Boeheim is shooting just 27.2% from three after hitting over 37% last season. You’d figure he would snap out of it, but at this point the season is more than halfway through, so who knows. Dolezaj remains a bit of an underrated component, mostly because he’s always been a light-workload guy, but he’s good with his opportunities in the paint.

— The Orange have added Illinois transfer Alan Griffin (6’5, 190) to the lineup and as a primary option he’s been good, shooting 56.5% on twos and 34.8% on threes. Syracuse also has a breakout player in sophomore Quincy Guerrier (6’7, 220), who is shooting almost 63% inside the arc and is by far the team’s best rebounder. He’s a tough matchup.

— Defensively, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone has the same problem it always does: rebounding. The Orange are just 291st on the year in defensive rebounding percentage, and in ACC games, Syracuse’s opponents have hauled down 36.5% of their own misses. It’s never a bad idea to crash the boards against these guys.

— The Syracuse interior does affect a lot of shots and overall has been good in league play, but this unit also has been fortunate that ACC opponents have hit just 28% from three. Even with the top eFG% defense in the ACC, the Orange still rank just 8th in defensive efficiency—because they are average or worse everywhere else. It’s a lot of weight to put on the whims of your opponent’s shooting.

— KenPom likes Syracuse by five. (KenPom does not account for injuries.)