Teams: Syracuse Orange (14-9, 6-4) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (17-4, 7-2)
Day & Time: Saturday, February 4, Noon ET
Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: N/A just yet
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Virginia Blog: Streaking the Lawn
Rivalry: 4-3, Virginia
Current Streak: 1, Orange
First Meeting: Syracuse lost to UVA in the Sweet 16 of the 1984 East Regional, 63-55. It was the first of three NCAA Tournament meetings between the teams, with every meeting coming down to single digits (SU leads, two games to one).
Last Meeting: Despite grabbing a 16-point lead in the second half and telling everyone to smell their finger, Virginia would lose its Elite 8 matchup with Syracuse, 68-62. The Orange pressed, Malachi Richardson went off (to the tune of 23 points), and the Orange were headed to an unlikely Final Four.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (41st Year, 999-351); Virginia: Tony Bennett (8th Year, 182-76)
Head Coach Bio: Bennett translated a four-year career at Green Bay into a three-year stint with the Charlotte Hornets, then additional time playing in New Zealand and Australia. He got into coaching in New Zealand, before heading back to the U.S. to be an assistant at Wisconsin (his home state).
He turned the Wisconsin assistant gig into a Washington State assistant gig, and the Washington State assistant gig into becoming the head coach with the Cougars. After three successful years (69-33, two NCAA berths), he left for Virginia.
The rebuild started slow at UVA, but by year three, the Hoos were in the NCAA Tournament. A step back to the NIT in 2013 led to an impressive (now) four-year stretch of single-digit loss seasons. Since 2013-14, Bennett’s Virginia teams have gone a combined 106-23 overall and 52-11 in league play (plus a league tournament title).
While Bennett has seen a ton of regular season success with the defense-first approach he employs, the Wahoos have yet to make it to the Final Four. Two straight matchups with Michigan State led to early losses in 2014 and 2015, then last year, the team obviously came undone late vs. Syracuse.
Last Year: Virginia went 29-8, finishing second in the ACC. A trip to the Elite 8 was further than they’d gotten previously under Bennett, but still: they lost to the Orange.
Last Game: They below out rival Virginia Tech, 71-48. UVA led the entire game, and absolutely suffocated the Hokies’ shooters (only made 15 total baskets). Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall and London Perrantes all scored in double digits.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": Perrantes is the obvious pick. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 12 points per game, and he shoots 41.4 percent from three (41-of-99). With the Orange defense getting better, there’s a chance the zone will hone in on him giving the scouting report probably revolves around him. Plus, Perrantes could still be suffering from PTSD from the last time he went up against SU.
If not Perrantes, any number of other players could fit the bill (they’re shooting nearly 40 percent from three as a team), but I’m going with Kyle Guy as random-player-who-murders-the-zone from deep. He’s hit 27-of-58 threes while playing just 17.7 minutes per game. That said, he’s only made three in the last five games. Is he due?
If Syracuse Loses: All good. I mean, it’s not ideal, but also not unexpected. We can’t expect to win EVERY game against ranked teams -- even ones that we inflicted psychological harm upon 10 months ago.
Fun Fact No. 1: The term “Wahoos” came from a derisive reference by Washington and Lee baseball supporters, who used it to describe UVA fans. The term, “Wa-Hoo-Wah” and the shortened “Hoos” were all adopted by the 1940s as standard references to the school and its teams. Not sure why, if they’ve been called that for this long, they would’ve ever bothered with Cavaliers, but whatever...
Fun Fact No. 2: Coach Tony Bennett is not the most famous Tony Bennett, though he and the singer are aware of one another. Tony the singer actually tweeted a reference to the coach and team last March (after an unfortunate dizzy spell for the coach).