In a game that was supposed to take place on Saturday, but was postponed due to the massive amount of snow that was dumped on Charlottesville, the Hoos will take on a Syracuse team riding a three game winning streak on Sunday night. After dropping their first four games in conference play, Syracuse has seemingly found a groove and will look to stay hot against the Hoos. The Orange come to town sporting a 13-7 record overall, 3-4 in the ACC, and are the 38th ranked team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. Syracuse can tout wins over Texas A&M (7), Duke (19), and UConn (31), but also claim losses to Clemson (58), Wisconsin (60), and St. Johns (244). Despite the record, they are a talented team with a Hall of Fame coach, so a win is always tough to come by.
The Orange are led in scoring by senior Michael Gbinije. The 6'7 guard from Richmond is averaging 17.1 points per game and has one of the best assist rates in the ACC. Gbinije can pose problems for the Hoos given his length and ability to beat people off the dribble and find the open man. Given the struggles of the pack line at keeping drivers out of the lane, it could be a long night if Gbinije is able to penetrate and find the open shooter such as backcourt-mate Trevor Cooney. Cooney is one of those players who you look at and swear they have been in college for 12 years. Cooney is a three point specialist who has jacked up 150 threes on the year (by comparison London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon have combined to shoot 154) and is making them at a respectable 37% clip. In addition to Cooney, keep an eye on freshman Tyler Lydon. Lydon is 6'10 and while he isn't a focal point of their offense, he isn't afraid to step outside and shoot the three. On the season he is shooing 44%, and as all Hoo fans know, a four who can make things happen on the perimeter is not a welcome sight in John Paul Jones.
On the interior Syracuse will play smaller than most teams in the ACC with 6'6 Malachi Richardson and 6'8 Tyler Roberson joining Lydon in the middle. While they are not the biggest, the Orange are physical in the paint. Roberson leads the way averaging almost a double double per game scoring 10.2 points and pulling down 9.1 boards. But where he really beats teams is on the offensive glass. On the season Roberson has a 15.8% Offensive Rebound rate which is good for 18th in the country. In their upset win over Duke on Monday night, Roberson pulled down a whopping 12 offensive rebounds giving his team enough second chance points opportunities to come away with the win. It will be strength vs strength as Virginia ranks 20th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. They will have to be that good, since if the Orange can control the offensive glass they will be able to come to Charlottesville and leave with a win.
Defensively, Syracuse will come at the Hoos with Jim Boeheim's signature 2-3 zone defense. The defense does a great job of keeping opponents out of the paint, but is susceptible to quality outside shooting (sound familiar). This year however, opponents are only shooting 28.9% from three against the Orange, good for 10th in the country. Still look for Virginia to take a few more threes than they might normally.
Where Virginia might be able to exploit a Syracuse weakness on Sunday night is on the offensive glass as the Orange give up 35.6% of rebounds to the offense. That puts them 336th (out of 351) in the country. On the flip side, Virginia grabs 32.3% of opportunities while on offense. In last year's matchup, it was Virginia's dominance on the offensive glass, pulling down 15 offensive boards, that was the difference for the Cavaliers. If Virginia can take advantage and create some extra possession, it could be a big day for Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey. And if that the case, the Hoos have a very good chance to come away with the victory.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.