The Syracuse Orange (7-5, 1-0) men’s basketball team will ring in the New Year by welcoming the Virginia Cavaliers (7-5, 1-1) to the Carrier Dome on Saturday night. The Orange took care of their Ivy League challenge earlier in the week and now look for a third-straight win. Here’s what we’ll be looking for when these teams meet:
Kevin: Clark Control
Kihei Clark is listed at 5’9” and 160 pounds so he doesn’t seem like the type of player who can control a game but he’s done exactly that against Syracuse. In the two games these teams played last year Clark had 15 assists and only 4 turnovers. Will the Orange play the 1-1-3 zone to keep Clark from receiving the ball at the foul line and breaking down the defense? Can Joe Girard shake lose of Clark’s defense? Last year Girard shot only 4 for 15 from the field against the Cavaliers so this point guard battle could determine the winner.
Szuba: Hoos weakness is weaker?
When two juggernauts meet in sports it’s easy to understand when the team whose strength is greater in a head-to-head matchup wins. But for Syracuse and Virginia, this isn’t 2013. So for two fallen powers, whose weakness will be weaker? Will it be the Virginia’s molasses-paced, score-only-if-necessary offense or Syracuse’s can-we-please-play-offense? defense? Virginia scores 61.8 points per game and Syracuse gives up 75.8. Hoo-evers weakness is weakest will lose.
Christian: Show us what you’re made of
A lot has been made of Virginia’s defense and for good reason. The Cavaliers are allowing the least amount of points per game with 56.2. However, there is a weakness to that defense. Virginia is allowing opponents to shoot 32.9% from three. For context, Syracuse is allowing opponents to shoot 33.6% from three, and most fans have made their feelings known about the Orange’s three-point defense this season. This is a tailor made opportunity for Syracuse to let it fly from deep. Of course, Virginia will face-guard the shooters hard, but if Syracuse can move the ball around and avoid the temptation to play iso ball, there’s an opening for the Orange to flex its biggest strength.