Day & Time: Saturday, January 1, 6 pm ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
TV/Streaming: ACC Network, WatchESPN
Rivalry: 10-6, Virginia
Current Streak: 2, Virginia
First Meeting: Syracuse was a three-seed heading into the 1984 NCAA tournament. Virginia earned a seven-seed and met the Orange in the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers pulled off a 63-55 upset to send Syracuse home. Pearl Washington only scored eight points in the loss. Virginia made it to the Final Four of the tournament, which was eventually won by Georgetown.
Last Meeting: Syracuse actually hung around offensively with Virginia in the second round of the ACC tournament last season and led by 11 at one point. However, Virginia clawed its way back and the teams traded the lead before the game was tied at 69 in the dying seconds. That’s when Reece Beekman hit a three at the buzzer to steal the game for the Cavaliers 72-69.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (46th year, 1,090-414) | Virginia - Tony Bennett (13th year, 302-108)
Coach Bio: Bennett still holds the NCAA record for career three-point field goal percentage at 49.7%. He shot over 50% during his junior and senior seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, playing for his father Dick Bennett. The younger Bennett would be selected 35th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1992 NBA draft and play for three seasons in the NBA. He would play in New Zealand for two seasons with the North Harbour Vikings, becoming the team’s head coach during his second year.
After Bennett’s tenure in New Zealand, he joined his father as an assistant coach at Wisconsin and stayed there after he retired until 2003, when Dick Bennett came out of retirement to lead Washington State. The younger Bennett followed his father to the Cougars and was an assistant for one season before being promoted to associate head coach. He stayed in that role for two seasons until his father’s retirement in 2006 and subsequently became head coach of Washington State. The Cougars immediately won 26 games during Bennett’s first two seasons as head coach, making the NCAA tournament both times. Washington State went to the Round of 32 in Bennett’s first year and to the Sweet 16 in his second season.
After a down year in his third season at Washington State, Bennett became the head coach of Virginia. While the Cavaliers struggled in his first two seasons, Virginia has won at least 20 games and finished at least fifth in the ACC since then. Virginia has made the NCAA tournament eight times under Bennett and won the 2019 NCAA tournament.
Last Year: Despite a couple of roadblocks, Virginia still entered the ACC tournament as the one-seed. The Cavaliers couldn’t complete the ACC tournament when players tested positive for COVID-19 after the Syracuse game. Virginia still did enough to earn a four-seed in the NCAA tournament, but Virginia lost in the first round to 13-seed Ohio.
Last Game: An abysmal second half saw Virginia only make five field goals in the final 20 minutes of its game against Clemson back on December 22. That’s all the Tigers needed to win 67-50 over the Cavaliers.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Jayden Gardner has the athletic build to do well against Syracuse’s zone. The 6-foot-6, 246 transfer from East Carolina leads Virginia with 14.8 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game.
If Syracuse Wins: This is for hitting a buzzer beater against us, Reece Beekman.
If Syracuse Loses: Consider this an award for giving us a new offensive coordinator and QB coach.
Fun Fact: Double-check your calendars and clocks. This game was originally scheduled for 8 pm but was moved to 6 pm earlier this week.