The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team begin Atlantic Coast Conference play Saturday, as it visits the home of the Virginia Tech Hokies Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, VA. The Orange (9-4) are riding a three-game winning streak, while the Hokies (8-5) are coming off a 81-52 loss to the nationally-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.
Syracuse's latest victory came against the visiting Cornell Big Red, 61-44. Senior center Rakeem Christmas continued his superb play netting a career-best 19 points, while junior guard Trevor Cooney chipped in with 14 points. The Orange used a 24-12 run in the first eight minutes of the second half to pull away from Cornell.
|Syracuse (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
Over the last four games, SU has seemingly played better since losing to the St. John's Red Storm (Dec. 6) and struggling in a victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Dec. 14) a few weeks back.
Christmas hasn't seen a dip in his production, while Cooney, who has averaged 18 points per game in the last five games, and junior guard Michael Gbinije, who has averaged 15 ppg in his last four starts, have been the keys to the Orange's resurgence.
Freshman forward Chris McCullough has battled through inconsistency, which has been attributed to an lack of aggressiveness. He still is the Orange's second-best rebounder and inside scoring threat, while sophomore forward Tyler Roberson has found rhythm as SU's sixth-man.
|Virginia Tech (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
First-year head coach Buzz Williams is trying to rebuild a program that has struggled to find any consistency in recent years. As many know, Williams left his job with the Marquette Gold Eagles for Blacksburg and the ACC after having some issues with the school's athletic department.
Redshirt junior Adam Smith is leading the team in scorning, while freshman Justin Bibbs is the second-best scorer on the team. Bibbs earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors after netting 20 and 13 points against VMI and Prebyterian, respectively. Smith and Bibbs are the Hokies top three-point shooting threats.
Meanwhile, sophomore Devin Wilson has a knack for scoring points too. In back-to-back games against Miami (OH) and Morgan State, Wilson scored 26 and 22 points off the bench. His play has helped earn him a starting role in recent games.
|Team Comparison||Syracuse||Virginia Tech|
|Points Per Game||70.4||69.2|
|Turnovers Per Game||13.5||13.8|
Overall, is the ACC opener for both programs. The Orange are 5-2 all-time against the Hokies with their latest win, 72-52, last Jan.
VT could provide a challenge for the SU defense, as it is ranked 14th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage. Currently, the Hokies are ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage.
On the flip side, there's a few spot the Hokies struggle. The first is rebounding, which features them near the bottom of the league in offensive and defensive rebounds. VT also doesn't defend shooters very well, which could be a good thing for Syracuse's Trevor Cooney.
Game Time: Noon
TV: Regional Sports Network–MSG (locally)
Radio: IMG Syracuse Radio Network
Point Spread: N/A
Meaningless Prediction: Syracuse 65, Virginia Tech 60
This is a ACC road game for the Orange, who do not have a lot of roster experience when it comes to this situation. This is why this one may stay close for a bit, however, eventually SU should pull away if it doesn't make its common mental mistakes late in the games.
This is an important game for Syracuse too, as they need to win all these upcoming "winnable" ACC games while they can. The late-season league schedule is brutal.
|Syracuse Orange (next 5 games)||Date||Time||TV|
|at Georgia Tech||1/3/2015||12:00 PM||RSN|
|Florida State||1/7/2015||7:00 PM||ESPNU|
|Wake Forest||1/11/2015||8:00 PM||ESPNU|
|at Clemson||1/13/2015||8:00 PM||ACCN|
|Boston College||1/17/2015||4:00 PM||ACCN|