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NC State needs a better defensive effort to finally beat Syracuse

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse! For the third time, for the current time, until next time. It’s a bubble battle for the ages: loser goes home, winner advances to a slightly better position in purgatory. I can feel the nerves mounting already.

Syracuse has been the source of a lot of disappointment in this NC State season already, so it’d be nice if the Wolfpack could turn that around today. That’s probably not going to happen unless the Wolfpack can improve defensively against the Orange, though: Syracuse scored better than 1.1 points per possession in both regular-season meetings.

Matter of fact, two of State’s four worst defensive performances of the season came against Syracuse. That’s unfortunate. Slightly unlucky to an extent, in that Cuse shot 38% from three in the first meeting and 47% in the second, both above-average showings for a very average outside shooting team.

There are things NC State can control, like rebounding, since the defensive glass was a problem in both games. Syracuse grabbed almost 40% of its misses in Raleigh, and that’s the sort of abysmal defensive rebounding effort NC State can ill afford. Syracuse is good at taking care of the ball and a decent enough shooting team to be a problem without the rebounds.

If NC State continues to play with the confidence we’ve seen over the last five games, the offense should take care of itself. State is more capable lately of outscoring an opponent rather than absolutely requiring a good defensive game in order to win, but even so, it’d be preferable to see some improved results defensively to take a little pressure off elsewhere.