By Derek DeBurger

Thursday’s game against the No. 21 Syracuse Orange kicks off what will be a daunting stretch of ACC opponents for the women’s basketball team, as six of the last 10 games on Louisville’s schedule are against teams that are currently ranked—including four ranked games in a row.

Syracuse is a really good team this season; the Orange have several impressive conference and non-conference wins, and their losses come from teams who are likely tournament-bound. This is a massive improvement over the previous year’s Orange, signaling good things to come for second-year coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

A key piece to the lightning-quick turnaround is guard Dyaisha Fair. Fair is currently the ninth all-time scorer in women’s basketball history, getting to that mark by scoring at all levels of the court. She’s more of a volume-scorer than a lights-out shooter; Fair’s season average of 20.5 points per game comes off of 38.7% shooting from the field and 38.5% from three. Fair leads her team in assists and steals per game, and also contributes an impressive 4.4 rebounds per game coming from the guard spot.

There’s a clear target in the Orange offense that the Cards will need to attempt to slow down—which head coach Jeff Walz has proven to be very good at over the years—but it is much, much easier said than done.

Outside of Fair, Syracuse has two other double-figure scorers—guards Georgia Woolley and Alaina Rice—and forward Alyssa Latham is just shy, clocking in at 9.9 points per game.

Defensively, the Orange are a little more average but still pretty aggressive. Syracuse ranks 180th in the country in scoring defense, but their 9.8 steals per game marks them 64th in the country. Louisville has made strides in cutting down their lazy passes leading to turnovers in the past few games, but it remains the Cards’ Achilles heel. If Syracuse can start stacking up steals and deflections, it could have a compounding effect and fast.

This is going to be a very tough game. If the Cards want to win they’ll have to take care of the ball and force someone other than Fair to beat them.

Despite how tough it will be, Louisville has the edge of being at home. I’m leaning toward a Louisville win, and for the Cards to remain atop the ACC standings.

Photo Courtesy // Taris Smith, Louisville Athletics