Teams: Syracuse Orange (8-7, 1-3) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (11-3, 3-1)
Date & Time: Saturday, January 11 at 4 p.m. ET
Location: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has a 22.4% chance to win this one. Cool, cool...
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 8-5, Virginia
Current Streak: 4, UVA
First Meeting: The 7-seeded Hoos upset 3-seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16 back in 1984. After UVA cleared out 2-seed Arkansas and 4-seed Indiana upset top-seeded UNC in the East, it could’ve been smooth sailing for the Orangemen to get to the Final Four. Instead, Virginia pulled off the 63-55 win en route to another upset over Indiana to make it to the season’s final weekend themselves. That was the second-worst thing to happen in the spring of 1984, though, after Georgetown’s national title.
Last Meeting: An unwatchable game if you’ve ever seen one. SU lost to Virginia, 48-34 to open the season at the Carrier Dome, and basically kill off an subscriber momentum the ACC Network still had to that point. Virginia shot 41% for the game, while Syracuse hit just 24% of their shots from the floor. Elijah Hughes (14 points) was the only Orange player to score more than seven in the contest. No Hoo scored more than 12.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,053-386 at SU) | Virginia - Tony Bennett (11th Year, 265-92 at Virginia)
Coach Bio: After playing at Green Bay, the Wisconsin native wound up on the Charlotte Hornets for a few years before going to the National Basketball League, where he suited up for both North Harbour and Sydney. He’d coach North Harbour for a season before heading back to the States, joining the Wisconsin staff as an assistant from 1999-2003. A few more seasons as an assistant at Wazzu led to him getting to run the Cougars program during a reasonably successful three-year stretch. Virginia was impressed enough with his nice 69-33 record to bring him aboard.
Following an uneven first four seasons (76-53 with one NCAA Tournament appearance), Bennett’s teams have been a force in the ACC since. Virginia’s won the ACC Tournament in 2014 and 2018, and won the national title for the first time in program history this past April.
They also have the honor of being the first 1-seed to ever lose to a 16-seed, as you certainly remember from less than 24 months ago.
Last Year: As noted, UVA won the whole thing last year, utilizing a little help from the officials in the national semifinal vs. Auburn, and then again against Texas Tech in the title game. A win’s a win, though if you ask the ACC Network, it’s both “improbable” and “unbelievable” that the now-perennial top-seed candidate won it all. If you ask most UVA fans, it’s the only championship that’s ever been won in athletic competition.
Last Game: Virginia lost an ugly one to Boston College, of all teams. The Eagles held UVA to just 33% shooting on the night, while both teams put on a pretty poor display from three. Braxton Key, Kihei Clark and Kody Stattman were really the only Hoos to do anything notable in the contest, while BC had four players in double figures.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Last time these two teams faced off, Mamadi Diakite was the only player to really look all that great on either side. He scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while collecting six boards. Given what we know now about Syracuse’s interior defense struggles, the forward seems poised for an even better game in the paint this time out.
If Syracuse Wins: Well they’re not dead yet, apparently? A win would give SU its best win to-date and a strong road victory for the resume. Doesn’t resuscitate this disastrous season by any means, but it’s a start toward potentially bouncing back a little.
If Syracuse Loses: Welp, it’s been “fun.” At 8-8 with at least three more games against top-25 caliber teams, it’s tough to see a path toward anything but misery left given how we’ve struggled against even marginal ACC competition.
Fun Fact 1: Malachi Richardson and the Orange press erased a 16-point deficit in the 2016 Elite 8 to stun the top-seeded Hoos and earn a trip to the Final Four. You may recall.
Fun Fact 2: If the current figures hold, Virginia will have the slowest offense in the country for the fourth straight season. UVA teams have looked ugly before, but this feels like a new low with the offense also outside the top 200 in terms of efficiency.