Day & Time: Sunday, December 31, 2017, 6:00 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Virginia Tech blog: Gobbler Country
Rivalry: 8-3, Syracuse
Current Streak: 1, Hokies
First Meeting: The Orangemen first hosted Virginia Tech in 1976, a 92-81 defeat for the home team. Larry Kelley led the way for Syracuse, scoring 18 points — which was well above his 4.8-point average on the season. It was also the fourth straight defeat for SU to close out that season. They’d rebound in the ECAC Tournament and make the NCAAs, however.
Last Meeting: The Hokies ruined my goddamn birthday last year, beating Syracuse 83-73 in Blacksburg. Taurean Thompson scored 18 and Tyler Roberson grabbed 10 boards. Virginia Tech carved up the zone early and never really looked back. At the time, the Orange were still very much in the midst of a rough stretch of play.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (42nd year, 1,015-359); Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams (4th year, 62-50)
Coach Bio: The Texas native got his sweaty start in coaching at UT-Arlington in 1994 as an assistant, then bounced around a bit from there. He spent a season each at Texas A&M-Kingsville and Northwestern State, then four years at Colorado State and another two at Texas A&M (the main one, in College Station). Buzz got his first head coaching gig at New Orleans, but was back on the assistant grind after a year, moving on to Marquette. He’d take over as coach a year later, putting together a pretty solid run with the Eagles. MU made the NCAAs in his first five seasons there, and the team won two straight Big East regular season titles. Williams jumped to Virginia Tech in 2014, gradually improving the on-court product each year.
As a head coach, Williams’s top accomplishment has been leading Marquette to an Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in 2013. This should always be underlined.
Last Year: Virginia Tech went 22-11 and tied for seventh in the ACC at 10-8. They’d lose by 10 to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Still, it was the Hokies’ first tournament bid since 2007.
Last Game: The Hokies used a balanced scoring attack to dismantle North Carolina A&T, 76-59. Nine different players scored at least five points in the matchup, and the Hokies held strong on defense, allowing a lowly 37.1-percent shooting from the floor. Tech did struggle themselves from three, however, hitting just 26.1 percent of their tries from beyond the arc.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": As mentioned, Virginia Tech is a pretty balanced group. Five Hokies average double digits in scoring, and they’re all brutally efficient, too. Six of the top seven in Tech’s rotation shoot over 50 percent from the floor, and nearly all of them are above 40 percent from three as well.
If we’re honing in on one player, it’s probably Ahmed Hill, who averages 16.3 points per game and hits 52.6 percent of his threes. But really, keying in on him alone is a recipe for disaster.
If Syracuse Wins: It’s a nice way to start league play when .500 or better is critical to making the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech was widely seen as a tourney team coming into this season, so the win would be a nice resume boost for the Orange early on.
If Syracuse Loses: Not the best, but far from the end of the world, either. Still, I’d rather not have a two-game losing streak to Tech or Buzz. We haven’t lost two straight to the Hokies since the first two games of this series. And SU hasn’t lost two straight to Buzz since 2011 (including that stupid NCAA Tournament game).
Fun Fact No. 1: The average person can sweat up to about 1.4 liters during an hour-long workout. That workout probably includes far more activity than whatever Buzz is typically doing on the sidelines, while losing what I’d guess is far more than that amount.
Fun Fact No. 2: Interestingly enough, Virginia Tech defines “Hokies” as loyal Virginia Tech fans, and the mascot as a “HokieBird” or an evolved version of a turkey. That makes very little sense since the team is not referred to as the HokieBirds. You’re weird, Blacksburg.
Fun Fact No. 3: Syracuse and Virginia Tech faced one another just three times while members of the Big East. That’s also strange, but a product of a weird divisional structure, shorter league schedule and the Hokies joining late.