What To Watch For Vs. Syracuse

Matthew McGavic

Following a 64-58 upset over the #5 Louisville Cardinals and an 86-79 road win over Wake Forest, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (13-13, 7-8 ACC) are now at .500 for the season and have a very real chance at winning 10 conference games for the first time since 1996. Next up for the Jackets, they continue with their road trip and gear up for a rematch with the Syracuse Orange (14-12, 7-8 ACC). Back on Dec. 7th, the Orange handed the Ramblin' Wreck their worst home loss in nearly 39 years. Tip is scheduled for Saturday, February 22nd at 4:00pm EST, and can be viewed on your Regional Sports Network.

Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Tech's 13th all-time matchup with the Orange:

Cold Stretch

Much like the last time that the Jackets faced the Orange, Syracuse has not had great fortune as of late. After their thrashing of Georgia Tech back on Jan. 22nd, Syracuse went on to win 8 of their next 11 games with head coach Jim Boeheim starting to make his case for ACC Coach of the Year.

However, the Orange have started to take a late season nosedive as they have lost 5 of their last 6 games heading into Saturday's contest. To be fair to Cuse, three of those games have come against the ACC's three best teams in Louisville, Duke and Florida State. Regardless, the Orange are in dire need of a win and could be looking to take out their frustrations on the Jackets.

Still Raining Threes

As most Tech fans remember, the last outing against the Orange was highlighted by Syracuse's insane ability to hit the outside shot. Redshirt junior forward Elijah Hughes and sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim both hit 6 three-pointers in the 97-63 loss, with Hughes scoring a career high 33 points.

Much to the dismay of said fans, Hughes & Boeheim are still shooting three-pointers at a high caliber. The duo is No. 1 & 2 in the ACC in three-pointers made, with Boeheim leading the conference in three point field goal percentage (38.7%). Also an elite shooter, freshman guard Joseph Girard is 8th in the ACC in threes per game, with Cuse being there only team in the ACC with 3 players in the top 10.

This trio of players has accounted for 89.5% of Syracuse's total three-point attempts, so the defense should be able to single out this group as the only legitimate outside presence. That doesn't make it any easier to stop them though.

Attack of the Zone

A staple of Jim Boeheim's tenure as the head coach of the Syracuse Orange has been the execution of his 2-3 zone defense. This season has been no exception, but this iteration of it has had its flaws. Where it has succeeded is forcing teams to take outside shots. Syracuse opponents have heaved up three-pointers on 48.7% of their total field goal attempts, good for 2nd most in Division I. This gives teams like Georgia Tech who are not adept at shooting the long ball an immediate disadvantage.

However there have been some cracks in the zone. Cuse opponents have the highest assist rate in the country, assisting on 72.3% of their buckets. Because of Cuse's positioning with their zone defense, they are sometimes not in the best spot to haul in defensive rebounds and halt possessions. According to KenPom.com, Cuse opponents have an offensive rebounding percentage of 32.3%, which is the 17th best in the country. While difficult to handle, Syracuse's defense is not impenetrable.

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