The Syracuse Orange are rolling right now after winning three straight, including this week’s 16 point come from behind victory against NC State. You might recall Syracuse coming back from 16 points in the second half in last season’s Elite 8 game. You might also recall that game being played against the Virginia Cavaliers.
It just so happens that Syracuse plays said Virginia Cavaliers tomorrow at the Carrier Dome. To help us preview the matchup, we brought on Caroline Darney from Streaking the Lawn for some Q&A.
TNIAAM: How have last year's role players stepped up this year?
CD: I think that, so far, the returning role players have all taken a giant step forward this year. It's really been impressive to see. Some guys, namely Devon Hall and Marial Shayok, took huge strides forward this season. Hall is a capable ball handler who has been shooting well and making good decisions in conference play so far - averaging 11.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 1.9 apg in UVA's 8 ACC games - and Marial Shayok has gone off offensively (averaging 13.8 ppg) since becoming a starter six games ago. (None of this includes Wednesday night's matchup against Tech).
With the surprise dismissal of Austin Nichols, both Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt have really performed well, especially over the last few games. Wilkins was expected to make that step up as he took over minutes from the likes of Tobey/Gill/Nolte, but Salt was figuring to be a bench player because of Nichols. In three of the last four games, Wilkins has been either a basket or a rebound short of hitting a double-double. Salt helped the Hoos beat shockingly good (?!) Georgia Tech by shutting down Ben Lammers (7 points). All in all, I've been very pleased.
TNIAAM: Speaking of last year... no hard feelings right?
TNIAAM: Is London Perrantes the unequivocal leader of this team? If not, who else takes on the leadership role on court?
CD: London is our guy. He's the leader of this team, and I think he's been phenomenal this year. In three of the last five ACC games, he has scored over 20 points, and he's only been in single digits twice in conference play. He struggled from the field at Villanova, but I don't think that's anything to be concerned about. If London is off the court, Devon Hall is a redshirt junior in his fourth year with the program and has been a secondary leader for the Hoos.
TNIAAM: How good is Kyle Guy?
CD: He's gooood. He's also in a shooting slump, but he will rebound out of it (hopefully in time to shoot over a 2-3 zone, if you know anyone who plays those). I still find myself assuming his shots will go in, and he's still carrying a 46% accuracy mark from beyond the arc for the season. His biggest weakness is probably physical strength (just from being a slight guy who is building up muscle and mass), which has hurt him trying to bust through screens and whatnot. Defensively, he's improving, but still has a ways to go to reach full packline potential. High ceiling for this kid.
Watch out for the OTHER first year though...Ty Jerome. He's been red hot the last two games.
TNIAAM: Can we expect you to play a slow, methodic game against Syracuse like years past?
CD: Hahahaha. Yes. Preferably not as slow as that game where Virginia scored two points in the first 12 minutes or whatever, but this is still a Tony Bennett team that will work for great shots and not settle for good shots. On defense, Hall, Thompson, and Shayok have been harassing players on the wings and Wilkins leads the teams in steals and blocks on the interior. Hopefully, the Hoos can make it miserable for the Orange all over the court.
TNIAAM: Virginia wins if...
CD: They can shoot well from outside and exploit the soft spots in the zone while limiting transition and second chance points for Syracuse.
TNIAAM: Syracuse wins if...
CD: They get hot from outside or Tyler/Rico Lydon are unstoppable in the post.
TNIAAM: Ultimate prediction time. Who wins and why?
CD: I think the Hoos will want some vicious, vicious revenge (maybe just me). They've played very well on the road in conference - minus the most mind-boggling game at Pitt ever - so hopefully that continues. I'm going to take Virginia 68-57.
There you have it. Thanks for joining us Caroline!
What say you, Orange Nation? Do you think Syracuse keeps rolling to make it four straight or will the Hoos be too much to handle? Leave your thoughts in the comment section and also head over to http://www.streakingthelawn.com/ for Virginia coverage as well as our preview.