At this point, it’s fair to expect the unexpected. Syracuse shut down 16th-ranked Virginia Tech 78-60 yesterday. The problems that had plagued Jim Boeheim’s squad were non-existent. SU won all necessary aspects of the game. The Orange shot a higher percentage than VT from the field and from deep, won the all-important rebounding battle and only turned the ball over eight times to the Hokies’ 10. These in turn led to second-half domination.
Let’s get to some questions.
Yes, VT missed dunks and layups (I think there were three failed jam attempts in the first half), but the Hokies by no means “destroyed the zone.” In the first half, Tech forced the ball to the free throw line, then utilized baseline cutters for layups. Syracuse did a really solid job of preventing the ball from getting to the middle of the floor in the second half, which forced tough jumpers. Tech shot 33% from the field, their worst mark of the season, and 27% from three-point range.
By my count, there are approximately six to seven open circles in the restricted area. Don’t worry about that, though. Check out all of those maroon circles outside of the arc. The nine missed threes on the right wing? Most of them were tough shots that Virginia Tech did not get in the rhythm of its offense. Hokies sharpshooters Jalen Cone and Hunter Catoor were a combined 2-13 from range. That’s a good game plan and better execution.
Yes, Syracuse does still have a chance to Dance. The Orange jumped 12 spots (from 48 to 36) in the NCAA NET rankings after the win. However, SU’s resume needs improving. A 1-3 road record and a 0-3 mark vs Quad 1 teams is not particularly pleasing to the selection committee.
Right now, VT is Syracuse’s highest quality win, and the Hokies aren’t even a Q1 opponent. There are only two Q1 teams in the ACC. The Orange face one of them on Monday in 18th-ranked Virginia, and still need to reschedule the other – the Florida State game. (The Seminoles are the best team in the ACC and I will stick by that opinion for the rest of the season).
This Virginia matchup is going to be the tipping point of the SU basketball season. If the Orange come out and play UVA extremely tight, even if they lose, the national media and the pollsters should take notice. A win puts Syracuse squarely in the conversation The two wins this week have set a precedent for solid conference performances, and this team knows the formula to a win in Charlottesville.