The Syracuse Basketball Team Is Hosting The Hoos This Afternoon

Syracuse basketball is back in business at noon against the Virginia Cavaliers. Although some solace remains with this tough game at the Carrier Dome.

The Syracuse basketball squad attempts to win its fourth ACC match-up in a row – and second over a top 10 team – when it tips off at noon this Saturday against No. 9 Virginia at the Carrier Dome.

The Orange (14-9, 6-4 in conference competition) come into this battle still in desperate need of signature conquests to get back into the conversation for a possible NCAA Tournament bid. The ‘Cuse is currently tied for fifth place with No. 20 Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

The Cavaliers (17-4, 7-2), meanwhile, find themselves just a half-game out of first in the ACC, trailing only No. 12 North Carolina.

SU recently bested Wake Forest and then-No. 6 Florida State, both at home, before riding graduate transfer John Gillon’s 43 points in a huge comeback triumph in overtime at N.C. State earlier this week.

UVA sports a record of 6-1 in its past seven outings, including a 23-point drubbing of Virginia Tech in Charlottesville, Va., on Feb. 1, as well as a 17-point pasting of Notre Dame in South Bend. Its only recent setback came at the hands of then-No. 1 Villanova, in which the Cavaliers held a big second-half lead before falling 61-59 on the road.

Virginia, under head coach Tony Bennett, is having a pretty special year to date. The Cavaliers possess nine victories over outfits in the RPI top 100. Among them are a 61-53 win at now-No. 6 Louisville, the previously mentioned Notre Dame result, additional road conquests against Clemson and California, and a neutral-court triumph versus Providence.

Its four defeats are to Villanova, Florida State, now-No. 7 West Virginia and Pittsburgh (hmmm).

All-time, Virginia is 4-3 against Syracuse, but I of course have to mention what happened the last time these two programs met. In the Elite Eight of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, freshman Malachi Richardson exploded after intermission, helping to erase a 16-point deficit in a shocking 68-62, come-from-behind victory. That propelled SU to the Final Four, and left Bennett & Co. heart-broken in the Big Dance yet again.

Still, you can’t overstate how UVA has fared in recent years. Led by Bennett, who previously coached at Washington State and is now in his eighth stanza at the Cavaliers helm, Virginia has claimed two of the past three regular-season ACC titles, while averaging 30 wins over that duration.

Nothing to sneeze at.

Bennett’s bunch has, for the last several campaigns, executed one of the stingiest defenses in the country.

Presently, Virginia is putting up 69 points per game, while allowing a mere 53. The Cavaliers shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the free-throw line.

Syracuse, on the other hand, is getting 77 points a contest, but giving up 70. The Orange connects on 46 percent from the field, 40 percent from downtown and 71 percent from the charity stripe.

In other statistical categories, such as rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, SU actually holds slight advantages. UVA, however, does commit two fewer turnovers per game.

Senior London Perrantes paces the way for the Wahoos, averaging 12 points a contest, one of three players getting double-figures.

Other than the Elite Eight outcome, Virginia has owned the Orange since it joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the ‘Cuse to prevail, the 2-3 zone has to lock down, and not succumb to a barrage of 3-pointers. Our boys need to have their hands up on defense, force turnovers and secure some easy baskets in transition.

They must not get crushed on the boards. And, in taking on that vaunted Virginia defense, crisp ball movement is key. We have to make shots. It’s really that simple.

Gillon isn’t likely going for 43 again, so other than the usual steady performances from grad transfer Andrew White III and sophomore Tyler Lydon, it’s imperative for others to contribute. Namely, freshmen Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson, as well as senior Tyler Roberson.

So far this season, Syracuse is 13-2 in Central New York, while Virginia is 8-2 in games played on the road or at neutral-sites. Something will have to give.

Hopefully, the boys in Orange pull out a victory, boosting their resume and landing head coach Jim Boeheim win No. 1,000.

No matter what the NCAA says.

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