The Syracuse Orange (14-9, 6-4) return home to take on the Virginia Cavaliers (17-4, 7-2) at noon on Saturday. The Orange have won three straight and refuse to die while the Hoos are coming off a victory against Virginia Tech after falling to Villanova last weekend.
Since joining the ACC, Syracuse has only beaten Virginia once. The sole victory the Orange has over the Cavaliers is undoubtedly the most important as it came in last year’s Elite 8. You might recall.
Now that’s all fine and dandy, but last season was last season. As Shakespeare once said, “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.” In other words, Syracuse needs another high-quality win against a top team. So what can we expect from Virginia?
Not much has changed with Virginia this season. It comes into Saturday’s contest ranked No. 2 in Ken Pom, second to only Gonzaga. The Cavaliers will play that oft-quoted (and overly stated as far as I’m concerned) pack-line defense which is allowing 87.4 points per 100 possessions. What’s more, Tony Bennett’s team gives up only 53.4 points per game, ranking No. 1 in the country. That’s pretty darn good.
Needless to say, Syracuse will have its work cut out for itself in this one despite averaging eight points more per game than Virginia (77ppg). To be quite frank, Syracuse hasn’t seen a defense this good since taking on South Carolina at Barclay’s earlier this year.
From a personnel standpoint it’s been next man up at UVA. London Perrantes leads the team in scoring and dishing with 12 points and 3.8 assists per. Marial Shayok has stepped up offensively — particularly in conference play — and is good for 10.1 points per contest. Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins and Kyle Guy all average over 7 points while Darius Thompson is just under that benchmark with 6.7 per game. Jack Salt adds front-court depth for Virginia and Ty Jerome has played stellar lately — he dropped 15 on Villanova including the game-tying bucket before Donte Divincenzo’s tip-in at the buzzer.
If those numbers don’t sound impressive, remember that Virginia plays at a slow tempo. It shoots the ball 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three, so don’t think that UVA is inept on the offensive end. In fact, Virginia is ranked second to last in the nation in adjusted tempo! Expect UVA to play at a slower pace than Molasses going up the Syracuse hill in early February.
The game tips off at noon and will air on ESPN2. Be sure to keep it locked at the site as we’ll have the game thread, recap and other post-game coverage. Go Orange.