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NC State takes on what should be a desperate Syracuse team Tuesday night

The Pack can take another step in solidifying its NCAA bid adding another solid road win.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse’s recent history has been unusual: there are lots of unremarkable regular seasons in there, yet the Orange have managed to put together several runs in March. They’ve been to a Final Four and two Sweet Sixteens over the last 10 years, none coming with the team seeded better than 10.

I wonder if there might be more of a clamor for Jim Boeheim to retire if those runs didn’t happen, because there’s not a whole lot to look at otherwise. If the Orange fall short of the NCAAs this season, it’ll be the third time out of the last four.

The Orange have plenty of work to do just to get into the bubble conversation, and they’ve hit now-or-never time.

Jimmy’s Joes have been better

... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 111.1 (68) 52.3 (90) 17.0 (79) 30.6 (116) 51.7 (112) 35.8 (82)
Defense 102.4 (121) 49.4 (129) 19.4 (117) 33.5 (343) 48.5 (111) 33.6 (155)

With the brothers Boeheim and a couple other vets having moved on, Syracuse is a lot younger this season, for better or worse. A handful of freshmen have seen the floor, led by rim-attackin’ machine Judah Mintz (6’3, 172). (NC State was one of the many schools recruiting Mintz at this point last year.)

Mintz’s brute determination method works pretty well, if it’s not always pretty. About 85% of his attempts have come inside the arc, where he’s hitting a respectable 49%; not bad for someone with his workload (and his stature). About half of those twos have been at the rim, and he’s also been to the free throw line 145 times. Keeping him out of the lane is a challenge.

Syracuse’s other leaders offensively are its veterans: Joe Girard III (6’1, 190) and Jesse Edwards (6’11, 230). Girard has assumed a lot of the jumpers vacated by the Boeheim brothers, as his workload has increased substantially—he’s nearly attempted as many shots as he did last year, in eight fewer games. As usual, his shooting inside the arc leaves a lot to be desired; also as usual, he’s an excellent high-volume three-point shooter.

Edwards is the team’s most valuable player for what he brings to both ends of the floor. He’s shooting 60% from two (the 50 dunks help), he rebounds well at both ends, and he ranks ninth nationally in block rate. He’s also shooting 76% at the free throw line in league play.

NC State will have to be mindful of Edwards in the middle of that zone, though Syracuse’s FG% defense isn’t stellar even with all the blocked shots. The glass is a weakness for that zone, and the Orange have been the worst defensive rebounding team in ACC play. A forever key against Cuse is just not letting that defense coax you into too many passes that result in turnovers. State’s been good about that, but the 2-3 is a whole different experience.

KenPom likes NC State by one.