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Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech preview: Five things to watch

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SU’s first ranked ACC foe of the 2020-21 season

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team got back on track this week with a win over Miami. But the work’s far from done if SU wants to get themselves back into NCAA Tournament shape. One way to help that case would be by upsetting the Virginia Tech Hokies, who are a top-20 team right now.

Before the Orange and Hokies get going at noon ET on ACC Network Extra on Saturday, we preview some of the most important things to watch out for.

Ajayi: How to deal with Hokies’ depth

The Orange will have to prepare for Virginia Tech’s depth. They are a really deep team which means they can throw whoever out there knowing their players won’t be as fatigued since, like I said, they are a deep team that can sub at any time and it won’t heavily impact the momentum. To counter this, Syracuse has to be ready to make their squad work for every bucket using the zone. They can send whoever out there, but if everyone is struggling to score on that 2-3 zone, none of that will matter.

Christian: I am not throwing away my shot

I hate to beat a dead horse here, but it’s incredibly important against Virginia Tech. Syracuse’s shot selection is vital as the Hokies are the third-best defensive rebounding team in the conference. Virginia Tech grabs 75.3% of its defensive rebound chances, while Syracuse is in dead last in the ACC with 68.3%. Offensive chances are at a premium as Virginia Tech also holds opponents to the third-lowest average points per game in the ACC at 64.69 points (nice). The Orange cannot afford to waste a single offensive possession.

James: Guard play

Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard put together their best combined performance of the season against Miami. Kadary Richmond was an immediate spark off the bench. Can they use that momentum against Virginia Tech’s backcourt? Wabissa Bede is a top two perimeter defender in the ACC and Tyrece Radford is as tough as nails. Syracuse has to limit Hunter Cattoor and Jalen Cone from shooting while the Orange backcourt has to shoot it well to win this game.

Kevin: How does Syracuse handle the Hokies’ balance?

Syracuse did a great job of making Isaiah Wong uncomfortable but the Hokies aren’t reliant on one player to do their scoring. They aren’t a strong rebounding team and only average 13 assists per game but the Hokies balance has been a key to their early-season success. Last year the Orange punished Va Tech when they put Hunter Cattoor on Buddy Boeheim so Syracuse needs to look for favorable match-ups and move the ball on offense.

John: Tech’s going to try to spread the zone thin

Unlike most of the teams that Syracuse has faced so far this year, the Hokies are going to try and spread the zone thin with their outside shooting, and won’t be attacking the rim too much. That should help avoid foul trouble for the bigs, but it should also test perimeter defense quite a bit. Virginia Tech’s hitting almost 35% of their shots from outside, so they’ll likely embrace range early and free up room in the mid-range (where they’re even more accurate). I don’t think Syracuse can outlast Tech in a high-scoring affair, so have to hope that doesn’t happen.