The 2019-20 college basketball season has officially arrived as the Syracuse Orange men’s team will tip things off at home against the Virginia Cavaliers on Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. The ACC has gone from 18 to 20 league games this season (and beyond). The conference has also rolled out its new television network, hence a conference game being played for the season opener.
Virginia is coming off a National Title run in 2019 (maybe you’ve heard?) and has won 15 of its last 16 games dating back to last season.
Syracuse enters the season pegged as a middle of the pack ACC team and will look to build its NCAA Tournament résumé right out of the gate. The implications of this game could have a meaningful effect on Selection Sunday as the victor will likely pick up a quadrant one win.
With that in mind, here are five things to watch for Orange vs. Hoos. Happy basketball season, all.
1: How many times will the ACCN show Virginia highlights from the 2019 NCAA Tournament?
Get used to this one, folks. It might as well be the year of MamadiaKihei Clark because we’re all but guaranteed to see that play to beat Purdue in the 2019 Elite Eight all season.
On a serious note, hats off the Virginia for last season’s run.
Oh by the way, did you know that Virginia won the national championship?
2: Defense, defense, defense
It’s almost a little bit comical when Syracuse fans get upset about a basketball program that relies on a stout defense to win low-scoring games with a group of unheralded recruits. Then again, we really shouldn’t be surprised.
Both of these squads finished in the top 30 of defensive efficiency (KenPom) in 2018-19. Both of these squads also lost four starters.
Given the roster turnover on each side, it wouldn’t be a surprise for either of these teams to take a step back in the defensive efficiency department this year. Still, Tony Bennett will play his pack-line defense and Jim Boeheim will play his 2-3 zone. Whichever defense emerges in this game will have a great chance to take home an early conference victory.
3: Point guard play
Jalen Carey will begin his sophomore year as Syracuse’s starting point guard. Freshman guard Brycen Goodine figures to back him at the one, while Joe Girard spent some time bringing the ball up in the two exhibition contests.
On the other side of the ball, Kihei Clark will handle the point for UVa. A starter a season ago, Clark will look to slow the Orange point of attack. Can Syracuse limit turnovers and run its offense against Clark and the Virginia defense?
4: Who will score for Virginia? Who will set screens for Virginia?
Perhaps you’ve heard that Virginia no longer has Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and DeAndre Hunter? The UVa troika combined for 61.5 percent of the scoring a season ago. Virginia also lost noted screen-setting extraordinaire Jack Salt. Who will replace them?
Diakite and Clark are the obvious choices there, but those guys aren’t proven scorers just yet. Is Casey Morsell ready to contribute from day one? Is junior college transfer Tomas Woldetensae a knockdown shooter at the high D1 level? Is Braxton Key even good?
There are a lot of questions for UVa there, but maybe Jay Huff becomes a do-everything type of stud for Tony Bennett.
5: Syracuse rotation
Jim Boeheim has said that Syracuse is deep this season. In the first exhibition game against Deamen, Boeheim elected to play all 12 available scholarship players. In the second against Carelton he played 10 (with John Bol Ajak only playing three minutes).
Will Boeheim elect to go deep into his bench, or will we see the usual seven to eight man rotation of his most trusted players in an important game?
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