This afternoon’s contest between SU and Virginia has massive ACC implications. The winner should claim the regular-season ACC title and secure the first seed in the ACC tournament. Syracuse is coming off of its toughest week of the season after losing to Boston College and Duke and then squeaking out a victory over Maryland. Virginia, on the other hand, is hot, having won twelve straight ACC games. UVA’s dominant defense and depth could cause major problems for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse.
Virginia holds the opposition to 54.7 points per game, which leads the nation. Unfortunately, they are playing the Orange at the perfect time. SU has shot a horrific 38 percent over its last five games. It is rare that Boeheim’s team plays an opponent that is arguably better defensively than they are. This means the Orange cannot rely on its own defense to stay in this game. Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney must be more efficient and play more composed than they have recently. Against Duke, the pair combined to shoot 3-of-18 from the field and 0-of-5 from three and Syracuse still had an opportunity to win at the end. This will not work against Virginia.
The Cavaliers have four players come off of the bench compared to SU’s two. Though they only have one true center (sophomore Mike Tobey), Virginia has five players that can operate in the paint. Syracuse only has three: Rakeem Christmas, Jeremi Grant and Baye Moussa Keita. When these players get in foul trouble it really limits SU. Against Maryland the Orange’s foul trouble almost cost them and against Duke it did. Blue Devil forwards Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker got to the basket with ease when the Syracuse big men needed to worry about their foul tally instead of playing sound defense. With the season-ending injury to DaJuan Coleman, SU will usually always lose the depth battle inside, but against Virginia it is more of an issue, as UVA head coach Tony Bennett has so many reliable options down low.
February was a tough month for Orange nation. A hard-fought victory over Virginia offers SU a chance to start off March with a bang.
Posted by: Connor Morrissette