The Virginia Cavaliers are taking their 13 game winning streak and perfect 10-0 ACC record back on the road this weekend as they head to the Carrier Dome to face the Syracuse Orange. The Hoos and Orange have already faced off once this season with Virginia taking the matchup in Charlottesville 68-61 behind 22 points from Kyle Guy.
We chatted with John Cassillo (@JohnCassillo) from our friends over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician to see what may have changed since the last matchup, and get some predictions.
You can check out my answers to his questions here.
Streaking the Lawn: Conference play has been a little streaky for Syracuse, losing four straight before a three-game win streak aided by the University of Pittsburgh. Y’all struggled in your last outing against Georgia Tech...what has been the issues in these losses?
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Offense has just been dreadful in most of the losses. You’re not going to win shooting 30 percent or less from the field -- it’s even more frustrating because the defense has actually kept us in those games. Late turnovers doomed us against Wake, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in the exact same fashion. We also can’t play all that well on the road. Not exactly a recipe for success here, but that’s what happens when you don’t really have a true point guard and all of your scorers are isolation guys.
STL: Depth is becoming a problem with injury issues. How will the loss of a player like Howard Washington hurt? Is Moyer back up to full speed?
TNIAAM: Washington’s less of a problem than Moyer, to be honest. At the beginning of the year, we had four guards. Now with Washington’s injury and Geno Thorpe leaving the program awhile ago, we’re down to two. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard usually play 40 minutes or so per game anyway, and Washington’s minutes were limited. But it’s not reassuring to have zero options beyond those two starters.
Moyer’s a starter, and his absence creates a bigger issue for floor spacing and scoring in the paint, as well as rebounding. He only played a handful of minutes vs. Georgia Tech, so I’m assuming he’s still only around 60-70 percent healthy. With luck, he can play a more complete game vs. Virginia, since Marek Dolezaj’s not really capable of carrying the load at the 4 for more than 15-20 minutes per outing.
STL: Virginia and Cuse already played once, with UVA controlling pace and (other than that dumb flurry at the end) comfortably winning. What do the Orange need to do differently to get the win this time?
TNIAAM: I mean, if we’d went and pressed for a bit longer, I think we could’ve made it a much closer game. And since it’s worked repeatedly against the Hoos, I’d bet we do more of that (and maybe a bit earlier as well). What could potentially stop us from pressing as much as required is the aforementioned lack of depth. With as many as three or four players giving you 35 minutes or more, our guys don’t really have the legs to run like that in the back half of the game. Beyond that, hitting more shots is just a thing we could do better against anyone, including Virginia, in order to see improved results.
STL: The Hoos handled Tyus Battle pretty well (12 points, 0-7 on threes). How has he been playing, and can Virginia fans expect to see another 4-for-9 from three performance from Frank Howard?
TNIAAM: A lot of the scoring load falls on Battle, and he’s been a little less consistent scoring since ACC play started (still has the ability to score 20 or more in any game, though). He’s an isolation player and he’s streaky, but he’s also found different ways to score in every game of late. I wouldn’t expect another 0-for-7 effort from him from beyond the arc, but it’s unlikely he replicates the 5-for-9 game vs. Florida State either. I’d expect him to get somewhere between 15 and 20, and probably the same for Frank, who is another player who’s unlikely to perform at the high or low end of his abilities shooting the basketball this time around.
STL: What is your prediction for Cuse in the post-season? Have they done enough to squeak in on the bubble?
TNIAAM: At current, I don’t think we’ve done enough. Best win is arguably either Buffalo or Virginia Tech, and we’re still largely a disaster on the road. We’ll need probably two marquee victories to close out ACC play, and one of those has to be away from the Dome. A win in the ACC Tournament (finally!) is a must as well. If we’re at 9-9 in the league going in, it’s nearly essential we advance a round in Brooklyn. I’d say we’ve got a 45/55 shot to make the NCAAs right now.
STL: There’s been some talk about a Cuse-Virginia rivalry. Where do you stand on that?
TNIAAM: I think it’s something near a rivalry. There’s been back and forth. There are real “moments” you can point to. Two big comebacks by Syracuse added some fuel, and the stakes of both (Final Four bid, Jim Boeheim’s 1,000th win) make them extra sweet for Orange fans. It’s just going to take more time to get the older set of fans on both sides interested in a “new” rivalry when they still have so many memories attached to the old foes (Maryland for you guys, Georgetown and UConn for us). Give it time and a few more important games. Then maybe we’ll finally stop pining after Duke and accept the fact that you guys are a more natural rival (and one that could actually reciprocate the feelings, in basketball at least).
STL: Ok, prediction time. Hoo ya got?
TNIAAM: I see what you did there...
As much as I’d love to predict Syracuse upsets you guys at the Dome yet again, our lack of depth is killing us right now. The offensive struggles of late aren’t likely to just disappear, even with our return home. I think we put up a similar fight to last time, press you guys a bit, but ultimately fall short. Give me something like 65-61, UVA wins. If I felt Moyer could actually go at 100-percent, perhaps I’d feel differently. But this Orange team just can’t rebound well enough without him or shoot well enough in general to beat you guys. We’re inefficient, and that doesn’t help in a game with minimal possessions (likely vs. Virginia).
Thanks, John! Hoos and Orange tip of Saturday at 4pm on RSNs or ACC Network Extra.