The Syracuse Orange basketball team hits the road for their second game of the season against the defending National Champion Virginia Cavaliers. With both teams coming off disappointing losses on Tuesday night what do we expect from Saturday’s game?
We asked Caroline Darney from Streaking the Lawn to give us some insight into Tony Bennett’s crew.
After falling to Boston College on the road (really that’s how you break an ACC streak?) how do you expect the Cavaliers to respond at home this weekend?
Ahh, Conte Forum. Where streaks go to die in front of 12 people. Nah, this year’s Virginia team is very human, and some of these losses are going to happen. It’s nuts that it was their first ACC road loss since January of 2019, and the one before that was February of 2017.
I think the Hoos will bounce back...it’s nice to be at home, in front of a friendly crowd (and just a crowd in general). Will that help with shooting? That’s yet to be seen.
Braxton Key was hurt late in the game. In the opener he held Elijah Hughes to a 4 for 14 night. If misses more time how do the Cavaliers look to replace him defensively?
Coach Bennett said he looks to be ok, and that’s huge because Virginia is just not as good on either end of the court without Key out there. His cast has evolved into a splint, making it easier for him to do things like shoot and catch, which, is kind of important in basketball. His play on Hughes will be huge...not sure who I would even begin to put on him defensively without Key. Size-wise, you’re going to get a less experienced defender without Key, because neither Stattmann or Woldetensae are as consistent and skilled as Key. I really like what we’ve seen out of first year Justin McKoy in limited time, but that’s a big ask for a young guy.
Here’s to hoping Key is A-ok.
Syracuse has struggled with interior players all season long. Should the Orange expect to see a lot of Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff playing together?
Huff played 29 minutes in the first matchup, and was one of two UVA players with a double-double (the other being Kihei Clark, of course). I think you’ll see a lot of him...probably around the same amount, but I’m curious to see the lineups. You’ll probably see a lot of Diakite-Huff, but it hasn’t been a lineup we’ve seen a ton this season. Over the last five games, those two have been on the court together just shy of 20% of the time.
Kihei Clark played all 40 minutes in the opener and nearly had a triple-double. With Joe Girard now at the point Syracuse will want to force him through a lot of screens on defense. Do you think this will take away from Clark’s offense in the rematch?
Yes, absolutely. It’s become clear that Kihei is one of the guys that immensely impacts the way the game goes. I mean, of course, he’s the starting point guard. But, the team goes as he goes. In Virginia’s three losses, Kihei is 5-for-24 (21%) with 14 assists and 12 turnovers. In the wins he’s 34-84 (40%) with 60 assists and 28 turnovers.
When you look defensively, Kihei is an extraordinary defender, but Girard has about four inches on him (if we go off the listed heights) and can pull the trigger with very little space. I do think Virginia will be prepared for Cuse trying to make them deal with screens...but this matchup is one I will be watching for.
If Kody Stattmann was a Dave Matthews song, which one would he be and why?
I’m changing it slightly and picking a song for the team this year, and going with “Best of What’s Around” -- HOLD ON IT’S NOT AS MEAN AS IT SOUNDS UP FRONT. This is a team that lost four key pieces from a team that won the National Championship (have to throw that in there, I’m legally obligated), and so many players, including Stattmann, are being asked to do a lot ahead of when they otherwise may have been asked. The song is about making the best of the situation, and this team is having to figure out a lot of what to do with themselves in a new reality. (Shoutout to STL contributor Paul Wiley for the help.)
What’s your prediction for this game?
I think it goes a lot like the first one, honestly. Virginia is one consistent shooter from going from an ok team to a good team, and that’s exacerbated when playing the Cuse zone. That said, at home, coming off a tough loss, I like the Cavaliers to rebound. It’ll be an ugly rock fight and we will all hate it. First to 50 wins.
Thanks Caroline. Be sure to check out Streaking the Lawn for all things Dave Matthews and Virginia Cavaliers sports.