Coming off Saturday’s 73-66 loss at Virginia, it was clear despite the seven-point margin that Syracuse and UVA are not in the same class of team. The Cavaliers are on a level that the Orange may never even reach this season, and that’s a group still getting better. Even better, SU’s schedule is only going to continue getting more difficult, but if the Orange want to not finish under .500 for the second straight season, they have to win games at home, and that starts with Virginia Tech.
Syracuse currently sits at 88th on kenpom.com, 80th in offensive efficiency and 118th in defensive efficiency. It’s hard to get more mediocre than the Orange. On barttorvik.com, SU is 143rd overall, 125th in offense and 180th in defense, and that’s just bad. According to the T-Rank, Syracuse should be favored to win just two of its remaining 15 games. Virginia Tech is not even one of those, but SU has a chance in any game in the Dome.
The Hokies are currently three-point favorites per the sportsbooks but are nearly six-point favorites on the T-Rank. That does not bode well for SU, plus VT is getting back a couple of key players in sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor, who shoots over 40% from beyond the arc, and freshman Rodney Rice is set to make his collegiate debut.
All of those factors aside, it’s still a winnable game for Syracuse, and that’s because it’s in the Dome. Unless the Orange are playing a team full of NBA Draft picks (like Duke last year), they are able to stay in any game thanks to the crowd behind them, annually one of the biggest in college basketball.
Admittedly, a lot of those chances go up in flames if Benny Williams misses another game considering how the freshmen played on Saturday (aside from Maliq Brown) because of the added dimension Williams gives the offense in terms of size and athleticism. But, he’s been inconsistent even when he’s been in the lineup, so if he plays, SU needs a good Benny game to get a win.
This game, as most do these days in college basketball, will come down to the Orange’s ability to defend the three, along with their ability to make threes. Joe Girard III has been on a hot streak lately, but eventually, he’s going to cool down, and someone else will need to step up and get into double digits on the scoreboard.
Nobody knows who that will be because of the unpredictable nature of this team, but Jim Boeheim and Syracuse need someone of the Williams, Chris Bell, or Justin Taylor class to score double figures if the Orange want a big win tonight in the Dome.