Opponent preview: What to know about North Carolina

first_img Published on April 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Facebook Twitter Google+ No. 9 Syracuse (7-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) visits No. 18 North Carolina (7-4, 1-1) in the Orange’s regular-season conference finale. A win potentially keeps SU out of the new play-in game, between the four and five seeds, in the ACC tournament. A loss guarantees an appearance in the Apr. 25 contest.Here’s what to know about the Tar Heels.All-time series: Syracuse leads, 17-8Last time they played: At the Carrier Dome almost a year ago to the day, then-freshman midfielder Brendan Curry scored two goals in the final 1:34 of the game to force overtime. He then assisted on Brendan Bomberry’s overtime winner. The win sealed SU’s No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and it’s second-straight undefeated conference season.The North Carolina report: Though the Tar Heels have hung behind the rest of the ACC in the national polls, UNC is the only team besides Virginia with a chance to finish 3-1 in conference (UVA holds the tiebreak). Three of their four losses came against the Top 10.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut the Tar Heels have one of the best offenses in the conference, churning out 19.73 points a game, No. 17 nationally. UNC’s 13 goals a game ranks 14th.Still, North Carolina struggles to get the ball to its offense at times, winning barely more than half of faceoffs (50.3 percent). In turn, the Tar Heels scoring defense is good (9.91 goals per game), but not a unit to smother an opposing attack line.How Syracuse beats UNC: Hope one of Jakob Phaup and Danny Varello gets hot and ride them to victory.Syracuse demonstrated how it can beat a dominant offense when it muzzled Cornell on Tuesday: Deny the ball. Phaup dominated at the faceoff X and the Orange in turn ran long possession after long possession, generating goals and keeping the ball away from it’s defense at the same time.If the Orange can do the same against the Tar Heels — command the ball as much as possible — it should have a very clear path to victory. And with Phaup, the country’s fifth-most effective faceoff man, it’s a viable plan, too.Stat to know: -3 — Syracuse’s conference goal differential. In avoiding the four-five ACC game, there are two scenarios in which SU gets stuck in a three way tie with Duke and Notre Dame for the second, third and fourth or third, fourth and fifth seeds, respectively. If it comes to that, the tiebreak is conference goal differential, where the Orange lack. Notre Dame, still to host North Carolina in a week, sit at -5, currently and Duke, which plays Virginia on Saturday, is +3 in goal differential.Player to watch: Nicky Solomon, freshman attack, No. 5The true freshman and younger brother of Syracuse attack Nate Solomon is third on the Tar Heels with points (24) and tied for second in goals (16). Last Saturday against Virginia, he recorded his first career hat trick and ninth multi-point game. Commentslast_img read more