The Syracuse Orange (15-7, 4-5) welcome the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers (21-1, 10-0) to town on Saturday, in an event that’s equal parts dire and entertaining for SU and its fans. On the one hand, we can still happily bring up the fun upsets. On the other, we’re in need of a win here, and Virginia will not prove easy to knock off.
In advance of the game, we spoke with Streaking the Lawn’s Caroline Darney about all things Hoos, past traumas and more. You can follow her on Twitter as well for further musings on Virginia, the Bachelor and rarely the scourge that is Georgetown.
We also answered some questions over there.
Virginia is arguably the best team in the nation -- does that feel weird to say out loud?
It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying. Both Villanova and Purdue are having incredible seasons, so it’s nice to see the Hoos performing so well and receiving votes for first place. But most of all, this season has just been a ton of fun. Sure, some games were a little stressful, but this team just seems to find a way to win. Usually, that’s the outstanding and suffocating defense that just makes everyone else so miserable, but I think they’ve also shown that the offense is nothing to scoff at. The balance they have is pretty impressive.
Syracuse was pesky despite the loss down in Charlottesville earlier in the year. Take us through your thoughts during the contest...
Hahaha... most of those thoughts aren’t appropriate for your readers, I think. No, it was a game that was close at halftime, which means no huge lead for UVA to burn. Even when it was a 14-point lead in the second half there was a little panic, and that wasn’t helped by sub-40% shooting.
Where could Tony Bennett (realistically) take another job that would hurt Hoos fans the most?
Any job that isn’t at UVA would hurt. I literally can’t deal with thinking about this.
Is the press the best way to beat this Virginia team? Why don’t more opponents try it?
Honestly, Virginia does relatively well against the press, despite what y’all may think from the last few matchups. Virginia only turned the ball over seven times against Cuse, and when the refs aren’t calling things like this, the press is SIGNIFICANTLY more effective. Honestly, most teams don’t use it because 1. it’s tiring, and 2. Virginia has one of the lowest turnover rates in the country... that would be my guess.
Where does this UVA team rank in terms of Bennett’s squads? What about in Virginia’s basketball history?
Oh goodness. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. This is probably the best defense I’ve seen for any Bennett team, which is saying something. Offensively, this team has perhaps as many weapons as any team I can remember in recent history. As for Virginia’s basketball history... that has a lot of time left to be determined. Their ceiling is very high, but as EVERYONE on the Twitters will remind you, this team is nothing if they can’t make the Final Four (so thanks again for ripping out hearts out and making this a talking point, so, so kind of you). What I do know is that this is perhaps the most fun team I can remember in the last few years, and this is a team that is significantly different than last year and that has a lot of weapons offensively.
We’re sort of shorthanded at the guard positions. Do you mind if we give Malachi Richardson a quick call?
How dare you. I trusted you.
What’s the biggest thing that worries you about this Hoos team? How might that show itself against Syracuse?
Virginia was able to find any shot they wanted against the Duke zone in the second half. Problem was... they didn’t hit all of them. That easily could become an issue against Cuse on Saturday. Off-ball movement has been pretty good, just need to convert those opportunities where they exist. My other concern would be rebounding... gotta keep teams off the offensive glass. It will be important to have big games from Wilkins, Salt, Diakite and Hunter in that respect.
Anything particular about the Orange that has you rattled, other than the typical ghosts of upsets past?
Length, length, length. That, and the huge appealing sign on our backs that screams “HEY THIS WIN WOULD BE GREAT FOR YOUR RESUME, SYRACUSE.” Everyone wants a piece of you when you lead the conference, multiply that when you’re perfect in conference, then again when you’re No. 2 in the country. Any road game in conference is difficult (saving my “but Pitt!” joke for after Virginia plays there), and this is definitely no different. ‘Cuse has some more-than-capable players, and the appetite for upset. I’ll be nervous throughout.
Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?
This game screams Virginia’s first loss to me, but I just can’t bet against Ty Jerome the way he’s been shooting. I think it plays out similarly to the first matchup, with the Hoos winning 63-55.
Thanks again to Caroline for taking the time on these questions. Again, be sure to follow her on Twitter, and pop over to Streaking the Lawn for all things Virginia as well.