Opponent preview: Everything you need to know ahead of Syracuse’s matchup with No. 3 Virginia

first_imgSyracuse (12-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) tips off with No. 3 Virginia (14-1, 3-0) at the John Paul Jones Arena on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The Cavaliers have only played in one single-digit game in the last month — all wins — and they were fending off giant-killers in Boston College at home. On Saturday, the Cavaliers held North Carolina, a team that averages 82.6 points per game, to 49 points. This is all to say Virginia, unranked to start the season, has rocketed up in the polls and might be the hottest team in the nation entering the Syracuse matchup.Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is paying close attention. The Cavaliers are among the five or six best teams in the country, he said.“It’s a tremendous challenge for us,” he said. “No question about that. They’re playing great.”Here’s everything you need to know about the Cavaliers.All-time series: Syracuse leads, 5-4AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLast time they played: A lot happened. In Jim Boeheim’s 1,000th* win, Tyus Battle’s then-career-high 23 points and a full-court press fueled a second-half comeback reminiscent of the two teams’ 2016 Elite Eight matchup, and in the end, students poured from the Carrier Dome stands for the second of what became last season’s three court-stormings.This was last Feb. 4 and the 66-62 upset over then-No. 9 UVA restored hope in a once-lost season. Wing Andrew White complemented Battle’s performance with 23 points of his own. After the game, when asked about the NCAA sanctions that stripped him of victories and made this 1,000th win unofficial, Boeheim said, “I know how many wins I’ve had.”The Wahoo report: Before the season, Virginia was unranked and picked to finish 6th in the ACC. It was easy to rationalize, because the Cavaliers lost four scholarship players — one to graduation, three to transfers — and almost 50 percent of its scoring. Then UVA head coach Tony Bennett added his first graduate transfer, Nigel Johnson, and assembled pieces he thought might work.The Cavaliers finished its nonconference schedule at 11-1, its only loss coming on the road, 68-61, to West Virginia, ranked the 10th-best team in the county by Kenpom. Then Virginia built up a head steam and ripped off six straight wins and the last three coming in early ACC play. Now, this is the best defensive team in the country, according to Kenpom.com, and UVA has held seven opponents to fewer than 50 points this season. In addition, Virginia’s offense that has struggled in the past has found a new gear this season, ranking 37th in adjusted efficiency.“They have a great offense this year,” Boeheim said.The rich even got richer because a redshirt freshman, De’Andre Hunter, has emerged as one of the team’s top on-ball defenders despite not playing a bulk of the minutes this season.How Syracuse beats Virginia: Call on the miracles of Elite Eights past. This is probably Syracuse’s worst possible matchup of strength-on-weakness, but the Orange has never bowed to logic against the Cavaliers. Boeheim seems to have something on Bennett (pressing in the second half?) but the Cavaliers have already beat two pressing teams in Virginia Tech and VCU. They also, as one beat writer pointed out, played “really well” despite losing to a pressing team in No. 2 West Virginia. So, to win on Tuesday, Syracuse’s head coach will need to pull all the tricks out of the suit jacket and have his players shoot it super well.Stat to know: 345Out of 351 Division I teams, Syracuse ranks 345th in adjusted tempo on Kenpom.com. Virginia ranks 351st. If averages hold for each team using about 20 seconds per possession, that means each team would only have 60 possessions. This game could be one of the slowest defensive grinds of the college basketball season.Kenpom odds: Kenpom gives Syracuse a 14 percent chance to win, its lowest for the rest of the season, and predicts a 58-46 loss for the Orange.Player to watch: Kyle Guy, combo guard, sophomore, No. 5The 6-foot-2, 175-pound marksman takes nearly a third of his team’s shots when he’s on the floor, one of the highest rates in the ACC. Part of his strength, a Cavalier beat writer said, is constant movement on the court and an ability to create his own space by coming off on-ball screens. Guy also presents a 3-point threat with the potential to beat the zone from the outside, and Tyus Battle and Frank Howard will need to ensure they keep track of him on Tuesday.On a related note: Three years ago, Guy and now-Syracuse forward Matt Moyer faced each other as high schoolers in an all-star game in New Jersey. In a game featuring much less defense than will be seen on Tuesday, Moyer’s team got the best of Guy’s team. This season will be the first time both players face each other on the court again, and Guy certainly hopes to get some payback. Comments Published on January 9, 2018 at 9:11 am Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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