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Syracuse men’s basketball: what to watch for vs. Virginia Tech

From one Virginia opponent to another.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 07 Virginia Tech at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After falling short of an upset on the road against #11 Virginia, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (10-6, 3-2) returns to action Tuesday night to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (11-5, 1-4). The Orange hope to take advantage at home against a Hokies team that enters the contest on a four-game skid. However, Virginia Tech’s last four losses against the ACC have all been by single digits, so the matchup will still be a competitive one for ‘Cuse.

Syracuse will look to bounce back in this upcoming stretch of games in preparation for its looming matchups against #12 Miami and North Carolina in what’s proven to be an open contest for who can rise to the top in the ACC.

Here’s what to watch for in the contest between Syracuse and Virginia Tech:

Dom: We’ve heard this one before

Although the Hokies don’t have the same top-tier reputation as Virginia, Virginia Tech categorizes itself as one of the better defenses in the ACC. The Hokies rank third in opponent points per game, fourth in opponent field goal percentage, and fourth in opponent three-point percentage in the conference. But recently, Virginia Tech has allowed its last four opponents to average 72 points per game, nearly eight points more than its season average. If Syracuse finds itself in a hole early, it will struggle to get out unless the outside shots are falling. The Orange have to make a statement right from the opening tip-off and can’t rely on fighting back from an early deficit.

Kevin: Find the shooters

I’ve been reading comments all year about how the Syracuse defense is better and will become a force and so on and so forth. Through 16 games the Orange have allowed opponents to hit double-digits in 3s 8 times. It’s not just the volume because, in the five ACC games, teams are making 39% from beyond the arc. Even without Hunter Cattoor, Syracuse has to find shooters when the ball goes to Justyn Mutts at the high post. The forward is averaging 3.5 assists per game and last year he dropped a triple-double on the Orange.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Mike: Ball control

The Hokies are near the bottom of the ACC in forcing turnovers: they’re 14th in average steals (4.9) and 11th in average blocks (3.7). SU needs to be smart with the ball and patiently play the perimeter game, waiting for Jesse and others to find holes inside. This is a winnable game, so with the Orange rapidly running out of favorable matchups left on the calendar, they can’t mess around with the ones they’ve got left.

Christian: Remember that guy?

Syracuse has done a great job for the most part in heeding Jim Boeheim’s advice and giving Jesse Edwards the ball. The Orange didn’t have that option last year against the Hokies because that game was the first one Edwards missed after his broken wrist ended his season prematurely. Syracuse is once against facing an undersized team compared to Edwards, which should help the Orange on both sides of the ball. It would behoove Syracuse to give Edwards the ball as the only Orange ACC losses this season have come when the big man has scored single digit points. Time to feed Jesse Edwards again.

Szuba: Who starts slow?

It might be banal to continue talking about Syracuse’s slow starts, but it’s especially relevant against a Virginia Tech that has also been a little slow to adjust to the start of games. So which team comes out more aggressive or will both teams continue the trend and start flat?


That’s what we’re watching for. Now, you tell us what you’ll be looking for in Tuesday night’s matchup versus Virginia Tech.