first_img Published on January 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm Related Stories How North Carolina’s Brice Johnson further complicates Syracuse’s lineup dilemmaSyracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about No. 6 North CarolinaMike Hopkins after loss to Clemson: ‘I’m not a loser’What we learned from Syracuse’s loss to ClemsonThe best game of Malachi Richardson’s career was painfully incomplete Syracuse (10-6, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) head coach Jim Boeheim returns from his nine-game suspension on Saturday at 8 p.m. as the Orange takes on No. 6 North Carolina (14-2, 3-0) in the Carrier Dome. SU has lost its first three conference games for the first time since the 1997-97 season. The Tar Heels haven’t loss since Dec. 12.Here’s what our beat writers predict will happen in the game.Sam Blum (12-4)North Carolina 74, Syracuse 77Ay Boe BoeSyracuse wasn’t the same without it’s 40-year head coach, Boeheim. Now, in his highly-anticipated return, the Orange rises to the occasion and gets its season back on track with a last-minute win over arguably the best team in the country. Syracuse proved in the Bahamas that it can beat anyone when it shoots the lights out. And the Orange won’t miss much against UNC.Jesse Dougherty (11-5)North Carolina 84, Syracuse 76Too much Tar HeelAdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse, riding pure emotion, will hang in this one for some of the second half. But North Carolina is too fast, too big and simply too good for the Orange to compete with for 40 minutes. Brice Johnson won’t need to put up 39 points and 23 rebounds like he did on Monday against Florida State to bully SU inside. When the Tar Heels’ bigs suck in the 2-3 zone, shooters Marcus Paige, Nate Britt and Justin Jackson will have a field day over the top. Boeheim returns, but things don’t feel all that different in the Carrier Dome. Not yet, at least.Matt Schneidman (10-6)North Carolina 78, Syracuse 66Spoiled returnThere’s no shortage of anticipation for Saturday’s game. Boeheim’s return from a nine-game suspension. College basketball’s largest on-campus crowd of the season so far. But unfortunately, the team coming out of the visitors locker room is the No. 6 team in the country, which also has one of the best players in the nation in Johnson. Syracuse already struggles defending the interior and Johnson, who averaged over 17 points and 11 rebounds per game, will further debilitate the Orange’s crutch. Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img