North Carolina (10-5, 0-2) vs. Syracuse (15-0, 2-0)
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Carrier Dome
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale)
"It’s really a good defense. Jimmy (Boeheim) recruits to that defense somewhat. He still likes guys that can shoot the ball and all that, but the long athlete that can close on people like football coaches talk about defensive backs. That’s the kind of athlete he likes to have and they do a great job of covering you and making it very difficult for you to get shots." - UNC head coach Roy Williams on Syracuse's 2-3 matchup zone
Season to Date: No. 2 Syracuse enters Saturday’s contest with a 15-0 (2-0 ACC) record. The Orange rolled to the EA Sports Maui Invitational title with wins over Minnesota (75-67), California (92-81) and then-No. 18 Baylor (74-67). Jim Boeheim’s squad posted a double-digit victory over then-No. 8 Villanova (78-62) on Dec. 28 before opening its inaugural ACC slate with wins over Miami (49-44) and Virginia Tech (72-52).
Fair Riding High: C.J. Fair has lived up to his ACC Preseason Player of the Year hype thus far, averaging 17.2 points on 45.9 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds per game. The senior forward earned MVP honors at the Maui Invitational after scoring 24 points in the title game victory over Baylor. The 6-foot-8, 215-pounder has also been effective defensively and ranks eighth in the ACC in steals per game (1.6).
Freshman Directing the Offense: In order for Syracuse to become a legitimate Final Four contender this season, true freshman point guard Tyler Ennis needed to play up to his five-star recruiting ranking. So far, so good. The 6-foot, 180-pounder currently ranks second nationally in assist-turnover ratio (4.67) and 10th in steals per game (2.6). The Brampton, Ontario native is averaging 11.7 points per game, and while his overall shooting percentage is low (43.0), he’s knocking down 40.6 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Zone in Effect: Syracuse’s 2-3 matchup zone gets plenty of national attention due to its unique look, although it hasn’t been quite as suffocating from a shooting perspective this season. Syracuse ranks 12th in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.412) and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.331). Where the Orange have been most effective defensively is in the passing lanes as they lead the ACC in steals per game (9.5) and forced turnovers (15.9).
Taking Care of the Ball: In addition to forcing nearly 16 turnovers per game, Syracuse is also one of just two ACC teams that’s turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game (9.9). The Orange lead the ACC in turnover margin (plus-6.07) and rank fourth in assist-turnover ratio (1.4).
Stat to Watch: Syracuse has not been outscored in the paint all season long. The Orange average a plus-11.8 differential in that statistical category.
Last Meeting: The sixth-ranked Orange defeated the Tar Heels, 87-71, in Coaches vs. Cancer championship game at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 20, 2009. Syracuse overcame a 39-37 halftime deficit with a 22-1 run to open the second half. Ed Davis led UNC with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Marcus Ginyard added 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Series History: UNC leads the overall series with Syracuse, 4-3. The Tar Heels are 1-0 against the Orange at the Carrier Dome and hold an 8-1 mark overall in the building.
11 Tyler Ennis (6-2, 180, Fr.) - 11.7 ppg, 5.6 apg
10 Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195, So.) - 13.9 ppg, 45% 3FG
5 C.J. Fair (6-8, 215, Sr.) - 17.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg
3 Jerami Grant (6-8, 210, So.) - 12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg
25 Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250, Jr.) - 5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg
32 DaJuan Coleman (6-9, 280, So.) - 4.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg
0 Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200, So.) - 4.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg
12 Baye Moussa Keita (6-10, 220, Sr.) - 2.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg
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(Photos by USA Today Sports)