‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Preview Syracuse’s ACC Tournament Matchup with Virginia
Syracuse beat Virginia the first time around, but what will be the Orange’s fate in the rematch? Our analysts give their keys to the game and predict if the Syracuse will move on.
Key to the Game: Midfielders Stepping Up
When Syracuse and Virginia met back in early March, the Orange was victorious in large part due to offensive contributions from its midfielders. Two midfielders, Tucker Dordevic and Jamie Trimboli, combined for six of Syracuse’s 12 goals in the win. Jamie Trimboli has been especially impressive in ACC play this year, with multiple goal performances in three of the Orange’s four conference wins. If Syracuse wants to best the Cavaliers in Charlottesville for a second time this season, getting offensive help from the midfield would be a major contribution.
Prediction: Syracuse 14-12
Despite the ACC tournament being played on its home field, Virginia barely snuck its way into the conference tournament, relying on its one conference win over UNC. This game means a lot for Syracuse, as the Orange is trying to bounce back from last week’s heartbreaking loss to Navy and prove its ACC dominance. This Virginia team has not lived up to expectations, especially on the defensive end allowing over 11 goals per game, which could cost them against a Syracuse team that has finally seemed to find its stride on offense. Even though UVA has the home field, the Orange will pull this one out thanks to another strong offensive showing.
Key to the Game: Get Out and Run
Look I’ve said this the past couple of weeks, I know. I want to see this team get up and down the field. The best performance I have seen from the team this season offensively was against Duke. That 15-14 win was the best offensive performance I have seen from Syracuse this season. If SU gets out and runs in those game I expect the Orange to pull away in this one.
Prediction: 13-11 Syracuse
Syracuse won the first duel in a nail bitter in the teams first matchup. Virginia had 19 turnovers, in the schools first matchup. But, it has been a consistent problem with 14 turnovers per game this year. I expect that to give the Orange opportunities to get out and run. With the athletes and finishers SU has the transition game could really aide the Orange. Because of that I expect Syracuse to pull this one out late, per usual.
Key to the Game: Apply Pressure in the Attacking Third
Virginia’s lack of ability to win close games comes down to a few factors, namely the difficulties it’s faced clearing the ball. Syracuse is a top 25 scoring offense in the country, and it can gain extra opportunities by causing turnovers. The Orange’s midfield speed is one of its best attributes—if it takes advantage of UVA’s struggles in transition, its offense can get rolling.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-9
In a battle of two offenses that like to push the pace, the Orange will do just enough defensively to pick up a victory. Notre Dame hurt UVA’s ability to get out and run by trusting its offensive middies to also play defense. SU will likely do something similar, so look out for two-way players such as Nick Martin to play a big role due to their versatility. As a result, the ‘Cuse should pick up its second win in Charlottesville this season.
Key to the Game: Force UVA Turnovers
Virginia is coughing the ball up 14.21 times per game this season. When Syracuse nabbed a victory over the Cavaliers back in March, UVA turned it over a whopping 19 times. The ‘Hoos are also averaging 12.86 goals per game this season, which seems to be a dangerous number for the Orange: ‘Cuse is 2-5 when they surrender 12 goals or more. This Syracuse defensive unit needs to harass Virginia ball handlers like Michael Kraus and Mikey Herring. If it can force double-digit turnovers, ‘Cuse will hold the Cavalier offense at bay.
Prediction: Virginia 14-12
Frankly, Syracuse is not playing anywhere near championship level lacrosse. After a shillacking at the hands of Cornell, the Orange needed overtime to squeak out a win against a North Carolina team whose season is already essentially finished. ‘Cuse then followed that up by blowing a one goal lead to Navy with less than a minute left in the game. The Orange is trending downwards during the most important part of the season. At this point, I don’t think anyone, coaches or players included, can have any idea of what to expect on Friday. That’s not the mentality you want to have in a win-or-go-home situation. I expect UVA faceoff specialist Justin Schwenk to dominate at the X, allowing Kraus and Dox Aitken to thrash the Orange defense. Syracuse fans will be holding their breath when the NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed.
Key to the Game: Disrupt Virginia’s Passing Attack
Virginia’s top-10 offense loves to share the ball. While Syracuse’s opponents have assists on just 50 percent of goals, the Cavaliers did it more than 60 percent of the time this season. Back in March, the Wahoos picked up eight helpers on 11 goals, including three from sophomore Dox Aitken, a season high. However, the biggest worry for the Orange will be keeping Michael Kraus at bay. The sophomore’s 2.36 assists per game is the second most in the ACC behind Duke’s Justin Guterding.
Prediction: Virginia 13-12
With neither team firmly in the NCAA field, this game carries extreme weight. Any advantage Syracuse gains from being the top seed quickly evaporates under the lights of Klöckner Stadium, the home field of Virginia. The Orange rode Tucker Dordevic’s four goal performance to a victory against the Wahoos in their first matchup, but the freshman has been all but silent since, with just five goals in the past eight games. SU should not be counted out, but the magical finish that Syracuse needed the first time around shows just how tightly these two teams matchup. In the end, the Orange may have used just a little too much of its magic up back in March.
Key to the Game: Prevent Against Big Runs
When Syracuse and Virginia last met in early March, the Orange led the Cavaliers 11-7 with 10:39 remaining. SU seemed destined to annihilate the Wahoos by the time the final horn sounded, but UVA went on a 4-0 scoring tear to tie the game late. Thankfully for Syracuse, Tucker Dordevic’s heroics with 13 ticks left in regulation erased a potential upset defeat. SU cannot afford to allow teams to go on scorching runs, because the offense isn’t as reliable as the 2017 version. Flashback to the first round of last year’s ACC Tournament, the Orange went down by margins of 6-1 and 11-2 early in the contest against North Carolina. Digging holes, or permitting teams access back into games will not get the job done in postseason play.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-10
We’ve been harping on faceoff specialist Danny Varello’s inability to secure 50/50 balls all season, but one opponent he had extreme success against is UVA’s Justin Schwenk, a player who has won close to 60 percent of his faceoffs this season. Varello finished 16-27 in that one. Maybe that can be attributed to the competitive juices flowing against the country’s best, or the grass surface at Klӧckner Stadium, but either way, hand Varello the edge in this one. Additionally, the age-old narrative for postseason success is “you need your best players to be your best players.” Virginia’s Michael Kraus and Dox Aitken only tallied four combined goals vs. SU, and I expect a repeat shutdown performance from the SU longpoles.
Key to the Game: Nick Mellen Locks Down Michael Kraus
Against Syracuse earlier this season, Virginia’s Michael Kraus had three points compared to his season average of five. It’s another example on the long list of top scorers SU defender Nick Mellen has stifled this season. In his redshirt sophomore campaign, Mellen has become one of the best, if not the best, defender in the country, and he’s likely in line for second-team All-American honors after securing the midseason third-team All-American award earlier this year. Syracuse can not afford to let Kraus run wild if they play as poorly as they did against Virginia earlier this year. Erasing UVA’s best goal scorer, would be the first step in the right direction to stuffing the Cavaliers’ attack.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-10
The Orange was lucky to beat the Cavaliers in the first go-around. In the first match up, UVA forced more turnovers, had a higher percentage of shots on goal and won more battles at the face-off X than SU. This time, if Kraus gets hot and all of those factors come to fruition once again, the game could be a blowout in favor of Virginia rather than a victory in favor of Syracuse. The inconsistency of the Orange’s attack makes this game a toss up, but Virginia hasn’t proven it can consistently beat top notch competition this year, so I side with ‘Cuse headed into the contest.