Virginia, despite not scoring much, is one of the country's best offensive teams
That might sound like an oxymoron, but it's true. Virginia averages 72.9 points per game, which ranks 189th among Division I teams.
Yet the Cavaliers are one of the country's most efficient offensive teams. They rank eighth nationally in kenpom.com's adjusted offensive efficiency metric. They also effectively shoot 54.6% — the 24th-best mark in the country — and very rarely turn the ball over.
So how can they be so effective yet not score all that much? Because the Hoos still play extremely slow, which shortens the game and dwindles the total number of possessions each team gets. Virginia averages 19.4 seconds per possession on offensive, longer than all but seven teams in college basketball.
Adding to that, opponents take 19.1 seconds per possession against UVA; only two teams force opponents into longer average possessions. Obviously, that shortens games even more.
Virginia's defense has fallen off. Here's why.
Last season, Virginia had the top defense in college basketball. The Hoos ranked first in kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency metric, allowing just 86.2 points per 100 possessions.
This season, however, is a different story, as UVA ranks just 42nd nationally in the same metric.
Much of the problem comes from the Cavaliers' inability to defend the 3 very well. Opponents are shooting 35.1% from beyond the arc against Virginia and 43% from the right wing 3-point area.
That plays right into Syracuse's hands, as 3-pointers account for 42.6% of its field goal attempts — the 39th-highest clip in the country. Even more encouraging for the Orange: they shoot 40% from the right wing 3-point area.
Malcolm Brogdon is really, really good
Malcolm Brogdon is in the midst of an exceptional season. Statistically speaking, he's one of the very best players in college basketball.
Brogdon — who is averaging 16.8 points per game while playing an average of 33.1 minutes — has an effective field goal percentage of 50.4 and a true shooting percentage of 55.1. He also has an assist rate of 18.1% and rarely turns the ball over.
Additionally, Brogdon leads the Cavaliers in defensive win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.
As of Friday, Brogdon was ranked No. 9 in the kenpom.com Player of the Year standings, behind only Brice Johnson among ACC players.
Undefeated at home
Obviously, this Virginia team isn't as good as the one that went 16-2 in the ACC last season. Yet Syracuse winning on Sunday would still be quite the upset.
So far this season, the Cavaliers have lost four games, but they've yet to lose at home. They're 9-0 at home, with wins over a number of formidable opponents — including Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame and Villanova.
Given that, kenpom.com estimates that UVA — which also beat West Virginia on a neutral court — has an 82% chance to top SU on Sunday, and it's difficult to argue against that.