There’s no rest for the wicked! Syracuse just took down No. 16 Virginia Tech and now has another ranked opponent, No. 8 Virginia, on the schedule tonight. The Cavaliers are 10-2 with losses to San Francisco and No. 1 Gonzaga. So, to put it simply, they are really good. Here are three keys to the game for the Orange for tonight’s showdown.
Shut Down UVA’s Big Three
Virginia’s combination of Jay Huff, Sam Hauser, and Kihei Clark are dangerous. Let’s start with Huff. The forward ranks eight in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings while averaging 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks per game. Hauser, on the other hand, is leading the team with 15 points per game and is shooting 41% from deep. Now, let’s talk Kihei Clark– the guard that keeps the machine moving. He, too, is scoring in double figures, while also adding four assists per contest. If those three get hot, or anywhere close to it, it’s going to be a longgg night for Syracuse. It’s difficult to key in on specific players with the 2-3 zone, but that is what needs to happen tonight. The Orange need to play the best defense they have all season if they want to shut down Virginia’s big three.
Gotta Grab Boards
It has been the storyline all season for Syracuse. The Orange struggle on the boards, ranking 176th in rebounding rate. Compare that to Virginia’s 51st ranking and you can see where there may be a discrepancy tonight. The Cavaliers are relatively tall, but nothing too imposing like North Carolina or Pittsburgh. Lucky for SU, though, UVA doesn’t crash the offensive boards very well, ranking in the bottom two thirds of the country. If Syracuse can protect the offensive glass and hold Virginia at bay in that category, it’ll give the Orange a fighting chance.
Play Your Pace
There is a major discrepancy in how these two teams like to play. Syracuse ranks 27th in average offensive possession length, while Virginia ranks 344th. In other words, SU likes to play extremely fast, while UVA likes to play at a turtle’s pace. All four of Syracuse’s losses this season have been against teams that like to play slower than the Orange. If they fall into Virginia’s slow-it-down trap, this one could end in an L. What SU needs to do is play its normal game– push the ball, get out on fast breaks, look to score early in the shot clock. Play your pace, don’t let Virginia dictate the tempo of this game.
Syracuse and Virginia square off tonight at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN. Go Orange!