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Could the Carrier Dome be the Key to a Virginia Title?

Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Entering play on Saturday at the Final Four, all four teams will be playing in U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time. Without doing any research, this could be the first time anyone will have played a basketball game at the stadium.

Many have said in the past that playing in such a large stadium for the Final Four is similar to playing outside. The sight lines are different than most teams are used to play with since 99% of college basketball games are played in arenas 13 of the size.

It appears none of the teams have played in an NFL stadium over the last few years. The Michigan State Spartans played in the Final Four in 2015 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but Kenny Goins is the only player left from that team, and he was redshirting that year.

The good news for the Virginia Cavaliers is they have experience playing in such a large environment thanks to our brothers from the North, the Syracuse Orange. Fun fact: Michigan State’s 2015 run actually went through the Carrier Dome for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, but Goins did not play.

Looking at Virginia’s main three shooters over the last three years at Syracuse (Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’Andre Hunter), UVa fans should be pretty confident heading into Saturday’s contest with the Auburn Tigers.

UVa at Syracuse Shooting

Date Hoo 2 Pt 3 pt FTs
Date Hoo 2 Pt 3 pt FTs
Team 10-26 (.385) 18-25 (.720) 5-11 (.455)
Ty Jerome 0-3 5-6 1-2
Kyle Guy 0-0 8-10 1-2
De'Andre Hunter 2-6 5-7 2-3
Team 16-24 (.667) 7-23(.304) 6-8(.750)
Ty Jerome 0-1 2-7 0-0
Kyle Guy 1-4 4-11 0-1
De'Andre Hunter 4-5 1-1 4-5
Team 12-26 (.462) 12-24 (.500) 2-5 (.400)
Ty Jerome 0-0 3-5 0-0
Kyle Guy 1-2 4-6 0-0
De'Andre Hunter DNP
Team 38-76 (.500) 37-72 (.513) 13-24 (.541)
Ty Jerome 0-4 (.000) 10-18 (.555) 1-2 (.500)
Kyle Guy 2-6 (.333) 16-27 (.592) 1-3 (.333)
De'Andre Hunter 6-11 (.545) 6-8 (.750) 6-8 (.750)

Remarkably, Guy and Jerome have shot an amazing small amount of two point attempts in the Carrier Dome, but have more than made up for it with their three-point shooting ability.

While Guy and Jerome have been good against Syracuse, Hunter has been lights out. Now, this could be largely attributed to Cuse’s 2-3 zone and Hunter plays the high middle-man like an NBA All-Star, but shots still have to go up and through the hoop.

Combined, UVa has shot greater than 50% from beyond the arc at Syracuse over the last three years with the Big Three shooting the lights out.

If we take those numbers and look at last year’s Final Four teams’ shooting in San Antonio, it’s clear where the team that could win makes its mark.

2018 Final Four Shooting

2018 Team 2 Pt 3 Pt FTs
2018 Team 2 Pt 3 Pt FTs
Villanova 35-55 (.636) 28-67 (.417) 20-27 (.740)
Michigan 39-63 (.619) 10-51 (.196) 23-36 (.638)
Loyola-Chicago 21-41 (.512) 1-10 (.100) 12-14 (.857)
Kansas 21-41 (.512) 7-21 (.333) 16-20 (.800)

While all the teams shot fairly well from two and the free throw line, only the Villanova Wildcats made a decent amount of threes while the Michigan Wolverines tried their hardest to shoot themselves out of a deep slump.

I’d attribute those woes to Nova having a mass of experience playing in domes thanks to their Final Four run the year before, while the other teams just didn’t have that experience.

Not to state the obvious, but the team that wins is likely to be the one making more shots than missing. But, given UVa’s track record and mere knowledge of shooting in such cavernous arenas, things could point to UVa shooting well enough on Saturday to play on to Monday and win it all.