After securing an ugly win against one of its easier ACC opponents of the season Tuesday night versus the Louisville Cardinals, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (10-5, 3-1) now gears up for a (way) tougher matchup Saturday afternoon against the #11 Virginia Cavaliers (10-3, 2-2).
The Orange are looking for its third straight win and its first Quad 1 victory of the season, while the Cavaliers hope to bounce back coming off a three-point loss to Pittsburgh.
Here’s what to watch for between Syracuse and #11 Virginia:
Dom: Discipline on both ends of the floor
Virginia is known mainly for its slow-tempo offense that focuses on ball movement, attacking the basket, and finding efficient shots. The Cavaliers rank last in both field goal attempts and three-point attempts in the ACC, but are middle of the pack in field goal efficiency and third in three-point percentage in the conference. The Orange can’t afford to give Virginia extra possessions, whether because it allows second-chance points or gives away possessions via turnovers. On the other hand, Syracuse is second in the ACC in offensive rebounds per game, while Virginia ranks second to last. If the Orange lose, it will most likely be because it shot itself in the foot.
Mike: Adjust to the competition
UVA has been quietly slipping down the rankings lately, with the Cavs losing three of their last five games. They actually have the second-lowest field goals per game in the ACC - but make up for it with the second-most points at the free-throw line. Still, they’re still a very deep team that has beaten some ranked opponents and barely lost to others. The ‘Cuse big-three of Girard, Edwards, and Mintz will all need to play up to their potential and carry the Orange in this one. Their keys: Slow the game down, stay out of foul trouble, and don’t force shots.
Kevin: Patience on offense
Virginia is ranked in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom. They value possessions and want to make opponents use a lot of effort to get points. The Cavs will sacrifice attacking the offensive glass to get back on defense which means Syracuse needs to be patient. Too often this season the Orange take quick, contested jumpers rather than moving the ball for better shots. This won’t work against Virginia. If Syracuse wants to win they have to be willing to make the extra pass to beat the pack line defense.
Christian: Alright, let’s try this again
A mountain of offensive rebounds and second-chance points allowed Louisville to stay within striking distance of Syracuse. The Cavaliers are great at preventing rebounds, but they don’t grab too many boards themselves. Jayden Gardner leads the Cavaliers in boards per game with 5.7. The next closest Virginia player is Kadin Shedrick with 4.3. Everyone else on the Cavaliers averages less than four rebounds per game. So, that begs the question. Can someone from Syracuse’s frontcourt not named Jesse Edwards to step up to the challenge and grab a board? We ask this question once again and eagerly await an answer.
Szuba: Point guard battle
It’ll be a matchup of youth vs. experience in Charlottesville as tenth-year senior Kihei Clark—who has lived through two world cups while being on campus at UVa—takes on Syracuse’s talented freshman Judah Mintz.
Mintz has been all that and a bag of chips for the Orange, but this will be his biggest challenge by far. You can bet Clark will be on him all night. As good as Mintz has been, he has been turnover prone at times. How does handle this matchup against an experienced, defensive-minded point guard?
That’s what we’re watching for. Now, you tell us what you’ll be looking for in tomorrow’s matchup versus the Cavaliers.