‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Predict SU-UVA
Syracuse hosts No. 2 Virginia in the Carrier Dome this Saturday afternoon. Will SU continue to struggle against top-tier opponents, or can the Orange work some magic against the Cavaliers. Our analysts are here to tell you what they think will happen. And some of the answers might surprise you.
Key to the Game: Limit Virginia’s Ball Movement
The Orange has had trouble this year when it comes to allowing teams to move the ball around. Virginia averages 13.7 assists per game, compared to Syracuse’s 11.3. The Orange allowed Georgia Tech to tally 17 assists in Wednesday’s loss, and surrendered 15 assists to the Cavaliers when the teams met last month. If Syracuse wants to score its first big upset of the season, it needs to slow Virginia down and keep the the Cavaliers from moving the ball too much.
Prediction: Virginia 80-65
Last year, Syracuse fans saw three top-10 teams fall in the Carrier Dome, but that was a very different Syracuse team that pulled off those upsets. There are a lot of people who think the No. 2 Cavaliers should be the top team in the country; its only loss came to Big 12 powerhouse West Virginia back in early December. The Orange offense has been too inconsistent this year, which won’t help against the nation’s top defense. Even though anything seems possible in the Carrier Dome, it’s very hard to see Syracuse pulling off this upset.
Key to the Game: Make Your Shots
Syracuse shot a season low 30 percent from the field last time out against Georgia Tech. That makes the Key to the Game rather easy, put the ball in the basket. The Yellow Jackets are a solid defensive team but they are no Virginia. If Syracuse wants to take down the second-ranked Cavaliers then the Orange needs to make some shots. When Syracuse scores over 70 points, the squad is 11-1. Meanwhile, when SU scores under 70 points, the Orange is 4-6. To win this game, the Syracuse team that can score needs to show up first and foremost. That does not mean the team needs to somehow drop 13 trifectas. No, Syracuse just needs to make enough shots to hang around.
Prediction: Syracuse 64-61
Call me crazy, maybe I am, but I think that the Orange pulls this game out at the Dome. Yes, Virginia has the best defense in the country allowing just under 53 points per game. Yes, Syracuse is last in the ACC in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage. But, the Orange was 3-1 against top 10 teams at the Dome last season, and has won 2 of 3 against the Cavaliers. What has been the secret to those victories? SU has made shots and sped Virginia up with the press. In the two squads’ first meeting, Virginia almost gave the game away in Charlottesville after Syracuse put on the press out of desperation. If the Orange can make this team uncomfortable, that could bode well for SU.
Key to the Game: Take Care of the Basketball
Virginia’s vaunted defense ranks top-five nationally in steals, while Syracuse’s offense turned the ball over 15 times in its loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The Cavaliers rarely give up the basketball (UVA has the third best turnover total in the country). SU needs to value its possessions if it wants to have an opportunity to knock off the top team in the ACC.
Prediction: Virginia 67-55
Virginia is a top-two team in the nation for a reason—it has won 13 in a row, including a road victory over Duke. Although SU fell to the Cavaliers by just seven points in the first meeting, UVA controlled the second half, leading by at least five points for the majority of the second half. There is no hotter team in the country than Virginia, and the Cavs should keep rolling with a win in the Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Key to the Game: Ball Movement
Simply put, the Syracuse offense is bad. The problem lies in ‘Cuse’s lack if assists. Out of 351 Division I teams, the Orange is tied for 322nd in the nation in assists per game with 11.3. When ‘Cuse lost to Virginia a little less than a month ago, the Orange assisted on just three of its 23 made field goals. THREE. If Syracuse has any shot at pulling off this upset, it cannot rely on forced one on one shots. The Orange needs to penetrate driving lanes and look for open shots along the perimeter.
Prediction: Virginia 65- 54
The Cavaliers look to be a surefire top seed in the NCAA Tournament. In a college basketball era filled with one-and-done phenoms, Tony Bennett has constructed a defense-oriented roster that strangles the life out of its opponents. Virginia has won three straight game against the top teams in the league in Clemson, Duke, and Louisville. While the Wahoo’s have a strong case for the top team in the country, the Syracuse offense is spiraling out of control. ‘Cuse has been forced to adopt a slow style of play, but Virginia owns that style. The Orange won’t be able to replicate last year’s upset.
Key to the Game: Speed up the Tempo
Virginia’s going to do all it can to slow this game down. Syracuse can’t let that happen. The Orange simply don’t have enough talent to beat the Cavaliers at its own game. SU needs to go to the press early and often Saturday and force UVA out of its rhythm. That is the formula that’s guided Syracuse to two upsets over Virginia in the past two years and it’s the only way SU’s going to get a third.
Prediction: Virginia 67-65
Ask any Virginia fan who they hate playing in the ACC the most and they’ll probably tell you Syracuse. For whatever reason, Jim Boeheim’s squad has done a really good job of making Virginia sweat since joining the ACC. Considering how desperate SU is for a marquee win, I expect this game to be no different. However, at the end of the day, the talent gap is just too sizeable this time around for SU.
Key to the Game: Keep It Close
Syracuse may have two losses at home, but there is a major caveat to that number: both losses came when Syracuse students were home for winter break. The Orange football team already knocked off the No. 2 team in the country as home underdogs, and the basketball team has that same chance. If SU can keep the game close like they did in their last contest with UVA, they can use the home court advantage to propel themselves to victory.
Prediction: Virginia 59-50
Syracuse could only muster 21 points in the first half against Georgia Tech, and Virginia’s defense is a completely different beast. The Cavaliers have held six of their 10 ACC opponents to 52 points or less. The Orange are a strong defense, but with a struggling offense, it will hard for SU to keep pace with the ACC’s best. Howard Washington’s season-ending injury and Matthew Moyer’s lasting ankle injury are big issues for Syracuse as they face a Virginia squad that has eight players averaging over 15 minutes per game.
Key to the Game: Get to the Foul Line
The Orange comes off its first loss in the past four contests, but it continues to stop the clock and get opportunities at the charity stripe. ‘Cuse has shot a combined 68 free throws over the last three games against Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech. While SU relies on slashing drives to the basket by players like Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard, Virginia plays defense with such proficiency. Tony Bennett’s squad has committed the fourth fewest fouls in the entire nation, and only relinquished 11 free throw attempts to the Orange in their first matchup down in Charlottesville on January 9th. When Andrew White, Tyus Battle, and company led SU to a signature win against UVA last season in the Dome, ‘Cuse took 20 free-bees.
Prediction: Syracuse 59-57
The Orange has proven this year that it plays to the level of its competition. Syracuse challenged Florida State to two overtime periods down in Tallahassee, but struggled twice against a very weak Pittsburgh team. SU desperately needs a signature win to bolster its resume, and Coach Boeheim should rally his players before hitting the floor. Don’t discount the impact of the 28,000+ expected to file through the revolving doors on Saturday. Make it 0/2 for second-ranked teams playing in Central New York during the 2017-18 school year.
Key to the Game: Move the Ball
If you squint hard, you might confuse the 2017-18 Syracuse basketball team with the ’06 Lakers. No ball movement, low assist numbers and isolation ball defined the Lakers that year. Sounds familiar? ‘Cuse has played with the same stagnant style as Kobe’s Lakers. Unfortunately for SU, as talented as Tyus Battle is, he’s not Kobe Bryant. Syracuse ranks 326th out of 351 total teams in the NCAA in assists per game. There’s little to rhythm with offense, and it shows. If SU hopes to pick up a win against one of the best defenses in the country, they must improve their offense’s greatest flaw.
Prediction: Virginia 60-51
In the last seven games, Syracuse is 3-4. In that stretch, the Orange didn’t beat a team with a defensive rating inside the top-100 in the country, according to Kenpom. What’s concerning about SU’s offensive struggles not only is its tendency to hit and miss, but its trend to disappear when facing semi-competent defenses. I don’t expect that to change against the Cavaliers’ number one ranked unit.