Going into conference play, Syracuse fans are more confused than confident. The Orange have been inconsistent in non-conference play, and hope to find its footing soon. Tomorrow’s game against Virginia Tech will kick off the Orange’s second ACC campaign, and here are the factors that will decide whether the Orange get off on the right foot:
3 Point Percentage
Syracuse’s shooting from behind the arc has been sub-par. At one time the worst 3-point shooting team in the nation (and still only 28.8 percent from behind the arc), a recent hot streak has brought optimism to the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is 47.7% from distance in their last 3 games and Coach Jim Boeheim hopes that Orange will continue to shoot to their potential.
3-point shooting may be the worst number on Syracuse’s stat sheet, but it’s the best on Virginia Tech’s. The Hokies are shooting 40.6 percent on the season from behind the arc, putting them at 13th in the nation. The great shooting from long range has helped Virginia Tech shoot 49.0 percent from the field on the year, which is also one of the best percentages in the nation, coming in at 22nd.
Strength of Schedule (SOS)
Virginia Tech went 8-5 in the first two months of the season, but did so with one of the easiest schedules in college hoops. 339 out of 351 in SOS, the Hokies’ strongest win may have been against Miami University (the one in Ohio). Virginia Tech has lost to schools such as Appalachian State and Radford, and has yet to beat a Power 5 team. 8-5 isn’t as impressive as it seems.
Syracuse has only beaten one major conference team in the Big Ten’s Iowa Hawkeyes, but have looked much more impressive in their start to the season. The Orange led in all but the end of the Villanova game, and have won all of its games against mid-majors, and only one by less than 15 points. St. John’s has even climbed up to No. 15 in the nation since beating Syracuse by 12 in early December, making the loss a bit more understandable.
Syracuse has quietly been one of the best teams in the country on defense. Opponents are shooting only 37.2 percent against the Orange, and score only 57.8 PPG. Virginia Tech’s 3-point shooting will be tested tomorrow, as Syracuse is holding opponents to 27.4 percent from distance.
Virginia Tech opponents average 64.5 PPG (148th in the nation). The Hokies give up an average of 96.9 points per 100 possessions, which is No. 143 in the country. A surging Syracuse team looks to go off on what seems to be a mediocre Virginia Tech defense.
If Syracuse’s basketball team was a stock, now would be the time to buy. The Orange have won four of its last five and are playing their best basketball of the season. Coach Boeheim has found his fifth starter in Michael Gbinije, and the team is getting more and more comfortable playing with one another. Virginia Tech shouldn’t be much of a problem for this squad.
Prediction: Syracuse over Virginia Tech; 69-50
Posted: Nathan Dickinson