With just seven games left to go, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (14-8, 5-6) faces a critical point heading into the final stretch of this season.
The Orange are in desperate need of a resume-boosting victory, especially given the current landscape of the projected NCAA Tournament bracket. Syracuse sits 9th in the conference based on its record against the rest of the ACC, with a 1-6 record against programs ranked top-50 in the NET ranking.
‘Cuse will have a chance, albeit a difficult one, as the team looks for its first victory against an AP top-25 opponent this season Thursday night against the #13 Virginia Tech Hokies (17-4, 7-4).
The Orange are coming off a tough 12-point home loss to Louisville as the team struggled with injuries and defensive mishaps. The Hokies enter the contest projected to be a fifth-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament coming off a 12-point road win against Virginia. Virginia Tech currently sits 22nd in NET ranking with a 2-2 record against top-25 NET teams and a 6-3 record against top-50 NET programs.
Tip-off between Syracuse and Virginia is at 7 pm EST in Blacksburg, with the game available for streaming on ESPN’s ACC Network+.
Here’s what to watch for in the contest between Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
Question #1: Can the Orange break its typical pattern against ranked opposition?
A common theme emerged from Syracuse’s previous three ranked losses to NC State, Duke, and Notre Dame: late-game execution. The Orange simply ran out of gas late in the third and early in the fourth quarter, whether because its offense fell off a cliff or teams took advantage of Syracuse’s shallow depth on offense.
Question #2: Who’s stopping the Hokies’ “nuclear option”?
That would be senior Elizabeth Kitley, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year averaging 17.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per game while shooting 55% from the field. Dariauna Lewis, Saniaa Wilson, and Kyra Wood will have a tall task against a star who can get her own shot seemingly at will, even when she doesn’t have the ball in isolation. Her defense (2.1 blocks per game, second in the ACC) will have it even tougher for the Orange to score inside, which means ‘Cuse will need to get her in foul trouble or rely almost entirely on perimeter scoring to jolt its offense.
Question #3: Can the math possibly work in favor of Syracuse?
For context, Virginia Tech’s women’s basketball program is scarily similar to Virginia’s men’s basketball team: very disciplined, efficient shooting, and a nightmare for any opponent’s offense. In the ACC, the Hokies rank first in turnovers, second in opponent points per game, second in opponent rebounds per game, second in assists per game, and third in three-point volume and efficiency. In other words, Virginia Tech is a juggernaut on paper.
The Orange are going to need to hold off the Hokies’ statistical excellence in some of these categories, whether with extra rebounding down low to prevent second-chance opportunities, cutting down on its own turnovers, or getting some big-time scoring bursts from its reserves. If not, Virginia Tech will win this game by a complete landslide.
Syracuse versus Virginia Tech preview by the numbers
All-time: Syracuse is 8-8 all-time versus Virginia Tech, with the Orange’s last road win against the Hokies occurring in 2019.
Last matchup: Last season, the Orange were trounced 102-52 at home in February 2022.
Win/loss implications: A win hands the Orange its first victory over a ranked opponent and easily its most resume-bolstering win of the season, while a loss keeps the losing streak against ranked opponents alive.
Prediction: This is an incredibly tough matchup across the board: an ACC powerhouse opponent on the road with advantages across the board without a true weakness. In a best-case scenario, the Orange’s perimeter game can get hot enough to simply outscore the Hokies. Outside of that, we’re realistically talking about a 75-60 loss against Virginia Tech.
Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech Team Stats
|Margin of Victory