Analysts Predict Whether Syracuse Basketball can Recover at Virginia

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 1:34 am by Sports Editor

‘Cuse Countdown Analysts take a look at whether Syracuse can boost its morale with a win in Charlottesville or if it will continue skidding in ACC play.

Mike Adzima

Key to the Game: Pick Your Head Up and Move On

Back-to-back losses combined with Saturday’s heartbreaking finish at home against Notre Dame on Saturday have created a somber mood surrounding Syracuse basketball. If the Orange wants to pull off the seemingly impossible upset of No. 3 Virginia on the road, the only way to do that is dust off your shoulders and march forward. Leave the disappointing losses to Wake Forest and Notre Dame in the past and look to the future with wide eyes ready to pull off an upset. A new, positive outlook on the ACC season is the best way for this Syracuse team to have any chance at beating Virginia.

Prediction: Virginia 74-58

With Virginia playing at home coming off of a statement win over defending champion North Carolina, it’s hard to see the Cavaliers having any chance of losing this game. Syracuse will face a team who can match up with anyone on defense. The Cavaliers lead college basketball, allowing just 52.5 points per game. Syracuse failed to prove it can win away from the Dome in conference play by losing at Wake Forest, and if it can’t win in Winston-Salem, the Orange should have an even tougher time in Charlottesville.


Jackson Ajello

Key to the Game: Move the Ball

It is no secret what the flaw is for this Syracuse team: the offense. In the squad’s four losses this season, the Orange is averaging just over 58 points per game. Meanwhile in its 12 victories, Syracuse is averaging just under 74 points per game. To be blunt, the shooting numbers in this game won’t be pretty. But, if the Orange works the ball around to find the best possible shot, the squad will have a much better chance. The main key down the stretch against Notre Dame was that the Orange did not get enough good shots off. The Orange cannot do that against Virginia, just ask North Carolina how that strategy works. Taking higher quality shots gives Syracuse a better chance to hit some big shots down the stretch and pull this game out.

Prediction: Syracuse 61-58

If you like high-scoring, up and down affairs, this game will not be for you. Syracuse is the 17th best defense in the country and Virginia is number one. Honestly, for that reason I expect the Orange to be in this game. Points will come at a premium, but if Syracuse can move the ball and get consistent quality looks, SU can pull this game out. Each of Syracuse and Virginia’s last three head-to-head matchups have all been played within 10 points, with the Orange winning two of them. Syracuse’s defense will keep them in this game, so if the Orange can hit enough shots, SU could pull this one out in Charlottesville. I see the Orange making it three out of the last four against the Cavaliers.


Cooper Boardman

Key to the Game: Make Threes

Virginia enters Tuesday night’s matchup allowing the fewest points per game of any team in the country. It has also held opponents to just 36 percent shooting from the field, the second-best mark in the country. The Cavaliers’ lone loss of the season came at West Virginia, a game in which the Mountaineers knocked down 10 three-pointers. If Syracuse is going to stay in the game, it needs to replicate WVU’s performance from deep. And while the Orange is in the bottom third in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage, it did manage to knock down eight triples in Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame.

Prediction: Virginia 70-55

The Cavaliers picked up a resounding, double-digit victory over No. 12 North Carolina on Saturday, while Syracuse enters off a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame. The Orange looks to do what no team has done this season and knock off Virginia on its home floor. SU’s lack of offense (279th in the country in points per game) coupled with the Cavs’ defensive proficiency presents a nightmare scenario for Jim Boeheim’s squad. UVA’s blueprint for success, keeping the Tar Heels off the glass, worked against UNC and should pay dividends against Syracuse.


AJ Fabbri

Key to the Game: Transition Points Off Turnovers

After an abysmal performance against Notre Dame, things won’t get easier for the Orange offense as it takes on one of the nation’s top defenses in Virginia. Against ND, Syracuse failed to score 50 points for only the 10th time Jim Boeheim’s 42-year tenure. The Cavaliers’ suffocating defense allows just 52.5 PPG. This does not bode well for Syracuse’s sluggish half-court offense. But in Virginia’s loss to West Virginia earlier this year, the Mountaineers scored 17 points off of 14 Cavalier turnovers. Similarly, in UVA’s one point victory over Boston College, the Eagles scored 14 points after forcing nine Virginia turnovers. The Orange must rely on its defense to force Tony Bennett’s squad to turn the ball over. Then let Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett cash in while running the fast break.

Prediction: Virginia 65-58

SU’s ACC losses have come in heartbreaking fashion. The Orange held halftime leads in both games, but in the final 20 minutes, Syracuse’s lack of depth shows. The Orange shot 38.5 percent in the second half against Wake Forest, and 30.8 percent in the final frame against Notre Dame. As fatigue sets in for SU’s scorers, they start to settle for low-percentage jump shots. Virginia’s pack line defense is designed to wear down opposing offenses, and the Cavaliers will do just that against a reeling Syracuse offense.


Tim Leonard

Key to the Game: Get Out On the Three

Two years ago, London Perrantes burned SU and went 6-10 from three-point territory. Then last year, it was UVA shooting-guard Kyle Guy who poured in four of the Cavaliers 12 triples against the Orange.This year, Guy and his fellow sharpshooters Ty Jerome and Devon Hall are all back to throw up threes over the top of the SU 2-3 zone again–the three of them all shoot over 44 percent from downtown. With the Charlottesville crowd on hand and a less talented roster, SU simply can’t let the Cavaliers get hot from beyond the arc. If it wants any chance of pulling off the upset, the Orange needs to get out on the UVA guards and eliminate as much air space as possible.

Prediction: Virginia 59-44

This game, somehow, might be sloppier and uglier than the Notre Dame game last Saturday. Virginia, as expected, has one of the toughest defenses in the country. The Cavaliers are holding opponents to just 52.2 points per game, which is the best mark in the nation. If Syracuse can’t score much against the likes of Wake Forest, St. Bonaventure and Eastern Michigan, who knows how many it’s going to put up on Tuesday? I know Jim Boeheim has had Tony Bennett’s number recently, but this one’s down in Bennett’s backyard. For my money, Virginia is the best team in the country right now and the Cavaliers will prove why yet again on Tuesday night.


Karl Moeglein

Key to the Game: Get Oshae Brissett Going

While Oshae Brissett’s role is built around being an all around player, the freshman needs to to score if Syracuse is going to keep up with Virginia. Brissett scored just 10 points while going 3-15 from the floor against Wake Forest. When Brissett is cold, too much pressure is put on Frank Howard to score. Against a tough Cavalier defense, Brissett has to shine for Syracuse to stay close.

Prediction: Virginia 70-54

Simply put, Syracuse’s offense is not good enough to keep this game close. Virginia has one of the best defenses in the country, holding teams to less than 36 percent from the field, while SU is the worst shooting team in the ACC. Virginia will be the toughest opponent the Orange has faced this year, despite already playing Kansas. Against the Jayhawks, Syracuse shot an abysmal 33 percent. And Virginia is even tougher. UVA will have no problem keeping its undefeated ACC record intact.


Corey Spector

Key to the Game: First to 55 Points Wins

Syracuse travels down the coast to Charlottesville to square off with a Virginia team that is arguably the most consistent squad in college basketball this decade. If the season were to end today, Tony Bennett’s bunch would finish in the top four in scoring defense across the entire nation for seven straight seasons. Cuse’s defense is hot too, as the team only gave up 51 points in a two-point loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. Jim Boeheim’s crew could face a similar fate Tuesday; every bucket will make a difference.

Prediction: Virginia 60-50

Don’t expect the Cavaliers’ offense to light up the scoreboard, but the team possesses one capability the Orange offense does not: three point shooting. Virginia doesn’t take a lot of them, but the Cavs shoot 39.7 percent from downtown. Three players for UVA, Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome, shoot over 44 percent from behind the arc. No one on SU makes at least 34 percent of their threes. Those extra points will be a glaring factor, especially since Virginia will be forced to take three pointers over the zone.  


Chris Venzon

Key to the Game: Frank Howard

Virginia likes to slow the game down and allow its stifling, number-one ranked defense to win games. Kenpom ranks the Cavaliers dead last in the entire NCAA in tempo. ‘Cuse approaches contests with a similar grind-it-out mentality. The Orange rank 345 out of 351 in tempo. If Syracuse expects to win a slow-paced game against an excellent defense, Frank Howard needs to be at his best. Possessions are infinitely more important in slower-paced games because there are fewer opportunities to score. On offense, he’ll be responsible for taking care of the rock and dishing assists for easy looks at the basket. If the junior point guard mindlessly throws those possessions away, the game could get ugly for the Orange.

Prediction: Virginia 54-45

The Cavaliers enter Tuesday’s showdown with Syracuse as the hottest team in the country. Virginia dismantled North Carolina in a game UNC’s head coach Roy Williams called “a big ol’ butt-kicking.” Earlier in the week, UVA wiped the floor with Virginia Tech, beating the Hokies by 26. Meanwhile, in Syracuse’s last game, the Orange struggled to score against a depleted Notre Dame roster devoid of its two best players. Forty-five points seems generous against the number one defense in the country.