Syracuse’s season has turned around in a week. The once NIT-doomed Orange have won three in a row, including one in Cameron Indoor, and are riding that momentum into today’s game against Virginia. It’s another opportunity for a resume builder for Jim Boeheim’s squad, and the Orange will once again need to be on top of its game to pull out a win.
Here’s three things to watch for in the Virginia game.
A Rebounding… Advantage?
It’s not that Vriginia isn’t a good rebounding team. In fact, the Cavaliers are one of the best in the country on the boards, averaging three rebounds per game more than their opponents and in the top 40 in defensive rebounding percentage. But as good as Virginia has been rebounding the ball, the Cavs are still a small team. 6-foot-11 Mike Tobey and 6-foot-10 Jack Salt both average less than 20 minutes per game, and nobody on the team averages more than 6.1 rebounds per game (Anthony Gill). The way Jim Boeheim has this team playing has Syracuse fans thinking the Orangemen can rebound with the best of them, and especially against one of the few teams who doesn’t outsize them.
Tyler Lydon has lost some of his luster over the past month. He’s only reached double-digits once in conference play after doing so in eight of the Orange’s 13 nonconference games. He’s also only gotten more than five rebounds twice, something he did 10 times outside of the ACC. An 11-point game against Wake Forest and eight more points to go with nine rebounds in the Duke win has Lydon closer to where he was earlier in the year, and that’s where Syracuse needs him to be if the Orange look to make a serious case for a tournament bid.
The Cavaliers and Orange have the third and 27th slowest paces of play in college basketball, respectively. A low-scoring game would probably play to the Orange’s favor, just because less scoring means less runs and smaller defecits to overcome if you’re the inferior team (which Syracuse is). It isn’t a home game, but don’t don’t be surprised if neither team makes it to Taco Time today.