Tomorrow afternoon, the Virginia Cavaliers play host to the Syracuse Orange, a rematch of the first game of the season. The Hoos won that one in a 48-34 thriller at the Carrier Dome, led by double-doubles from Kihei Clark (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Jay Huff (11 points, 10 rebounds).
Since that opener, the Orange have had a real up and down season. They’re currently No. 70 on KenPom and have a record of 8-7 (1-3 ACC). Syracuse’s lone ACC win came over Georgia Tech, and they have dropped back-to-back games to Notre Dame (one point loss) and Virginia Tech (four point loss).
In order to get a more in-depth look at the Orange, we reached out to our friends over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.
You can check out our answers to their questions here.
Streaking the Lawn: Yay! Round two! On a scale of dentist appointment to DMV visit, how excited are you for this weekend’s rematch?
Nunes Magician: I’m so excited that I’m leaving the country for it but honestly this match-up could be like getting a root canal at the DMV. It’s not going to be a game for people who like free-flowing offense.
STL: What has changed the most about the Orange since we last saw you?
NM: The potential to see a lot of bench players used. Coming into the season we heard a lot about the depth of this Syracuse team, but injuries have turned the Orange into a six or seven man rotation. Quincy Guerrier is the only non-starter who has gotten consistent minutes the last few games while Howard Washington is the only other guard who’s likely to get a few minutes. With so many players going the full 40, Syracuse isn’t applying a lot of pressure on defense and are content to play slower on offense.
STL: Talk to me about Joe Girard.
NM: Joe Girard feels like anything inside half court is within his range. He’s also the type of player who responds to pressure situations and you can tell he hates losing. He’s going to be one of those players Syracuse fans love and opposing fans hate. He hits tough shots, he tries to draw every charge and his questionable chin scruff just sets him up to be the guy ACC fanbases will loathe during his career.
STL: Syracuse’s scoring has improved since the opener...is it something you see as a different scheme, or is there a real concern there could be a similar output as the first matchup?
NM: The offense had been playing a lot better but then Virginia Tech completely neutralized the Orange attack by applying ball pressure and pushing up on the Syracuse shooters. There’s a big concern in this one as Kihei Clark will be on Girard and can make it difficult to get the half court offense set up. I think Syracuse will use Elijah Hughes at the point for a lot of possessions as a way to combat this but the ability for Virginia’s bigs to help was a big factor in the opener and should be the same again.
STL: VT mounted a comeback at the Dome, what struggles did the zone have in that one and are you happy with how the defense has looked?
NM: This is one of the worst Syracuse defensive teams in a long time. The guards have trouble stopping penetration and the wings have been pulled even further from the basketball leaving the Orange very susceptible to offensive rebounds. Add to this the fact that Boeheim’s not using his bench we’re seeing fatigue set in late. In the last ten minutes of the last two games, Syracuse had a lot of difficulty getting stops.
STL: Ok, prediction time!
NM: First one to 40 wins. I think Virginia’s front court is going to be too much for the Orange once again. Diakite and Huff both get double-digit rebounds and Virginia ends up with a double-digit win.
Huge thanks to Nunes Magician for the discussion! You can catch the game at 4pm on ESPN on Saturday.