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

A big opportunity for the Orange awaits

Virginia Tech v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

It’s another opportunity for the Syracuse Orange (13-8, 6-4) when they face the Virginia Tech Hokies (12-8, 2-7) tomorrow night.

For the Orange, this is a chance at grabbing a Q1 road win and bouncing back from the disappointment of Tuesday’s loss to North Carolina. Virginia Tech beat Duke at home and they are looking to get back into NCAA at-large discussion now that Hunter Cattoor has returned.

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

Kevin: Find the shooters.

With Virginia Tech back at full strength, the Orange shouldn’t expect the Hokies to repeat their 3-19 from 3 performance from the first meeting. In their win over Duke, Virginia Tech was 10-19 from 3, led by Cattoor’s 5-10 performance. Having him back in the line-up is going to give Justyn Mutts another option when he gets the ball in the high post. Syracuse’s perimeter defenders have to locate Cattoor even when the ball isn’t in his hands.

Mike: Both? Both.

After the loss to North Carolina, Coach Boeheim said that the team’s bigger problem in close losses is starting off slow, not failing to finish off opponents. He can say that one is worse than the other, but the truth is that both are still enormous issues that have cost the Orange plenty of quality opportunities. We’ve reached the point of the season where there are no more excuses left to give. Either figure things out or accept that you’re going to keep being asked about them.

Christian: Don’t forget

The eyes are going to be on Cattoor for good reason given Virginia Tech’s shooting performance against Syracuse last time out. However, that doesn’t mean the Orange can forget about VT’s big guys. Grant Basile and Justyn Mutts tore up Syracuse on the offensive end and if the Hokies got more outside support, they probably could’ve won that game. After seeing how well UNC did with Armando Bacot and Pete Nance in the high-low post-game, you can bet Virginia Tech is eager to replicate that with Basile and Mutts.

Dom: Down the same rabbit hole

Not trying to compare Virginia Tech to Virginia here, but in a sense, the Hokies rank statistically as a similar-style team similar to Virginia. The Hokies are turning the ball over at the fourth-lowest rate in the ACC while allowing the fourth-fewest opponent points per game. The big difference is that Virginia Tech is below 35% from three this year, but as Kevin noted, the Hokies can catch fire and quickly make teams pay from behind the line. This is a game where the Orange are going to need to shoot the lights out and avoid getting into an early deficit.

Szuba: Virginia boys back home

In the first two meetings against the Virginia teams, Maliq Brown and Justin Taylor played extended minutes and showed up big for Syracuse. Brown and Taylor each scored in double-figures in the last meeting against Virginia Tech. Against North Carolina, Brown grabbed seven rebounds yet scored just one bucket and Taylor didn’t get much run. Perhaps with some added motivation the two players show up back in their home state?

That’s what we’re watching for, what will you be looking for tomorrow night?