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

Quad 1 wins don’t grow on trees; here’s how the Orange can finally earn one:

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (13-9, 6-5) are looking to avoid a three-game losing streak when they welcome the Virginia Cavaliers (16-3, 8-2) to the Dome tonight.

Can the Orange turn things around against a balanced and experienced Virginia squad or will Kihei Clark continue his career of carving up the Syracuse zone?

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

Kevin: Push the tempo

In the first meeting, Syracuse used the full-court press to cut a 23-point lead to 10. They weren’t creating turnovers (Virginia had 10 for the game) but they broke the offensive rhythm that the Cavaliers enjoyed that day. Tonight the Orange can’t wait to get behind big to push the pace. Virginia wants to be patient and move the ball for open shots but we’ve seen throughout the years that speeding them up can force them into poor shot selection and can allow the Orange to get into transition.

Dom: Avoid an early deficit

We’ve belabored the point time and time again, but the Orange can’t afford to be down by double-digits early in the first half against a program like Virginia. Syracuse was down 23 at one point in its last matchup versus Virginia, and while the Orange did play better late in the second half, it was also fortunate that the Cavaliers went scoreless for over six minutes and was held without a field goal for nine minutes in the second half. That lack of shooting fortune probably won’t repeat itself this time around.

Mike: Cover the corners

The Orange rotation was so out of focus in Blacksburg that Hunter Cattoor all but anchored himself to the far corner and was still left wide open. Now the conference’s best distance-shooting team arrives to potentially be the latest zone-destroying opponent. I don’t know how much you can realistically fix in two days, but ‘Cuse doesn’t stand a chance in this game if the guards can’t get into position on the back end.

Christian: Help me

Brandon Shields is probably a name you don’t recognize, but you probably know his twitter account @ShieldsOnHoops. He’s been great at breaking down Syracuse games this season, and he’s pointed out a flaw in Syracuse’s offense that has been a systematic problem for years that’s bled into this season.

Syracuse has the tools to be great on offense. Yet this team constantly shoots itself in the foot with people standing around while waiting for something to magically happen. Look at the cohesiveness that Virginia Tech moved offensively on offense and compare it to the “movement” for Syracuse. You cannot afford to stand still and wait for something to happen against Virginia’s defense. Syracuse has to think of something to consistently generate movement throughout the offense that doesn’t involve a drive with everyone else watching.

Szuba: Threes aplenty

It’s hard to unsee the defense Syracuse didn’t play at Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Hokies were open time and again from the perimeter — the Orange will have to tighten the screws if it has any hope of defeating a methodic Virginia team. In the first meeting the Hoos knocked down an uncharacteristic 12 threes. Tony Bennett’s squad is efficient from out there, but doesn’t rely on the deep ball to score. Can Syracuse lock in on defense or will we be seeing more of the same out of an unintimidating 2-3 zone?

That’s what we’re watching for, now it’s your turn to tell us what you’ll be watching tonight.