Teams: Syracuse Orange (10-6, 2-1) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (12-3, 1-2)
Day & Time: Tuesday, January 10, 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.
Line: N/A, at the moment
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Virginia Tech Blog: Gobbler Country
Rivalry: 8-2, Syracuse
Current Streak: 8, Syracuse
First Meeting: The Orangemen fell to the Hokies in a 91-82 barn burner at Manley Field House in 1976. SU’s defense struggled all game, while the offense used an unexpected spark to keep up with Tech. Reserve guard Larry Kelley logged 18 points to lead ‘Cuse scorers. It just wasn’t enough to avoid the rare home loss.
Last Meeting: Syracuse pulled off a feverish comeback from seven points down in the final two minutes of the game. Then, they continued momentum into overtime to put the Hokies away, 68-60. Michael Gbinije was the hero of the night, scoring 17, including the tying basket to send things into the extra stanza.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (41st Year, 995-348); Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams (3rd Year, 43-40)
Head Coach Bio: After a brief stint at New Orleans, Williams took up the head coaching gig at Marquette, where he’d become a bit of a torment for Syracuse and the 2-3 zone. Under his watch, the Golden Eagles went 139-69, while making five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Their furthest trip was a run to the Elite 8 in 2013, which ended in a blowout loss to Syracuse. That was the only year Marquette finished with a share of the Big East title under Williams.
After one more season up in Milwaukee (in which Marquette missed the tourney), Williams left to become the head coach at Virginia Tech. While the first season was a predictable disaster (11-22), the Hokies have steadily improved in his two-plus years. They made the NIT last season and are ranked early in 2016-17, with an upset win over Duke as well.
Williams is 3-8 all-time against Jim Boeheim, which may not sound great. But considering one of those was a win in the 2011 NCAA Tournament (brutal), and the fact that Marquette had inferior talent in every one of those games, it’s not that bad at all. Just two games between the coaches have been decided by more than five points. Two of the last five matchups were decided by two points, and another went into overtime.
Last Year: Virginia Tech went 20-15 overall, while finishing 10-8 in the ACC (tied for ninth in the conference). They wound up in the NIT, where they beat Princeton in the first round before falling to BYU by three points in the second. It was Tech’s first 20-win season since 2010-11.
Last Game: The Hokies took a trip down to Tallahassee, Fla. and left with a painful 93-79 loss to the Florida State Seminoles. The ‘Noles went up big in the first half and stayed there, out-running Tech at every turn. Virginia Tech found itself in foul trouble for much of the proceedings, which gave FSU ample space to be more physical and attack the rim. Still, some individual Hokies put up some respectable lines. Chris Clarke scored 22, while Zach LeDay chipped in 19 and Ahmed Hill had another 16 (including shooting 3-of-5 from three).
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": LeDay’s your leading scorer, but the guy to be very cautious of is Hill. He puts up 15.3 points per game, but more worrying than that is his three-point prowess. He’s 43-of-95 (45.3 percent) on the year so far, which should concern any Orange observer. Hill has hit at least two three-pointers in seven consecutive games.
If Syracuse Wins: There may be some credence to the theory that the Orange have figured something out. Virginia Tech’s another top-20/30 team, and adding a third consecutive win over a team like that -- especially on the road this time -- would continue to improve SU’s position as it relates to a once-unlikely NCAA Tournament resume.
If Syracuse Loses: Back to the drawing board.
Fun Fact No. 1: While Virginia Tech football was in the Big East with Syracuse for awhile, the same can’t be said about Hokies basketball. Tech didn’t join the league for that sport until the 2000-01 season, hence why we’ve only played them 10 times to-date. They only shared a league for four full seasons before Syracuse joined the ACC.
Fun Fact No. 2: The last time Syracuse and Virginia Tech faced one another in a major sport, this happened...