Well, it’s finally here. We’ve heard all about it (during every broadcast, several times), we’ve avoided highlights, and we’ve just started to be able to buy oranges again. Virginia is finally facing Syracuse again after the most soul-crushing, heart-breaking, mind-numbing defeat in the history of all basketball defeats.
But, as London Perrantes said “It’s just another game really. As hard as it is to say, it’s just another game.” Both the Hoos and the Orange are very different teams this season thanks to graduations and the NBA draft, so we reached out to our friend James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) from Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (@NunesMagician) to see what we should expect Saturday.
Head over to Nunes to check out my answers to James’s questions.
Streaking the Lawn: WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED IN RALEIGH?
Nunes Magician: I'd like to reroute your attention to the Elite 8 game last season when UVA's walk-on decided to give a shoulder shrug after that ridiculous lay-up, because I genuinely don't know. But yeah, coming from 16 points down in second halves seems to be Syracuse's MO.
STL: You have to help us out a bit, because I've gone back and forth as the season has gone on. Some stretches, you guys look like it's all figured out, some stretches like you've just remembered the season is happening. Is Syracuse good? What is your take on the season so far?
NM: Yeah, anyone's guess is as good as mine. I can't remember the last time Syracuse has had this mercurial of a season. Last year's team was in every game, so you knew they were good. This year's team is so volatile nobody really knows for certain.
I will say this though. The fifth-year guys took time to learn the zone and point guard play has been suspect. Andrew White looks tremendous lately defending the wing position and when Gillon plays good, Syracuse plays good.
STL: Taking into account Gillon's unreal 43 points on 13 shots, who stirs the drink for Syracuse's offense? You have four guys that average double digit scoring (that are the same four that shoot over 39% from three). How important is it for Cuse to get going from outside?
NM: Well it starts with the point-guard position on offense, so Gillon is a major key. Andrew White has been relatively consistent all year and Tyler Lydon is arguably the team's most important player. In regards to outside shooting, it's vital as Syracuse needs to knock down outside shots to stay competitive.
STL: Defensively, how have you felt about this team this year? With so many scoring options for Virginia, do you have any concerns on the defensive end?
NM: Very. The zone has been the team's biggest weakness all year. Frankly, it still isn't that good but it has improved from earlier in the year. I can envision Virginia running the shot-clock down to 10 seconds and executing to perfection as we speak...
STL: Syracuse wins if....
NM: The defense shows up and John Gillon plays well.
STL: Virginia wins if...
NM: It can get defensive stops and mitigate Tyler Lydon and Andrew White.
STL: You know we still hate you guys, right?
STL: What is your prediction for the game?
NM: Virginia 71 - Syracuse 60
I think UVA shows up ready to play and gets stops on the defensive end. Asking Syracuse to win on Saturday is a tall task, even if the Orange are at home.
A huge thanks to James and all the folks over at TNIAAM (seriously give them a follow they’re pretty funny) for taking the time out to chat. Virginia at Syracuse tips at noon on Saturday on ESPN2.