2011-12 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #5 Syracuse

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Tonight Virginia Tech will play #5 Syracuse in the semifinals of the NIT
Season Tip-Off in Madison Square Garden on ESPN2 a little after 9:00. The Orange
are 4-0 on the season and appear to be one of the best teams in the country,
which is par for the course with Jim Boeheim at the helm.

Syracuse is known for their vaunted 2-3 zone defense that creates major
problems for opposing teams. Boeheim recruits to fit his 2-3 zone, and the
Hokies will face one of their biggest (literally) challenges of the season
tonight.

Syracuse is 4-0, with easy wins over Fordham (78-53), Manhattan (92-56),
Albany (98-74) and Colgate (92-47).

Syracuse
Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Ht. Wt. Yr.
G Scoop Jardine 6-2 195 r-Sr.
G Brandon Triche 6-4 205 Jr.
F Kris Joseph 6-7 215 Sr.
F Rakeem Christmas 6-9 228 Fr.
C Fab Melo 7-0 255 So.

If anything, the Orange will with the National Championship in the All-Name
competition. Scoop Jardine? Rakeem Christmas? Fab Melo? Those names make the fun
factor of Syracuse basketball go way up.

Senior wing Kris Joseph averages 13.5 points per game, the best mark of all
the starters. Joseph is a quality player who can score inside because of his
size, but he is also shooting 46.7% from three-point range through the first
four games of the season.

Thus far, Jim Boeheim has used a 10-man rotation, and the top two scorers for
the Orange have come off the bench. Jim Southerland (6-8, 215, Jr.) is a massive
wing who is averaging 13.8 points per game. He plays just over 20 minutes per
game, and he’s shooting 66.7% overall and 66.7% from three-point range. When
he’s in the game, Southerland is matchup issue for almost every wing he faces
because of his size.

Dion Waiters (6-4, 215, So.) also comes off the bench to average 13.8 points
per game. Like almost everyone else, Waiters plays around 20 minutes per game.
Through four games, nine of the 10 players in the rotation for the Orange are
averaging between 16.3 and 22 minutes per game. That will likely change a bit
against the Hokies. Syracuse is the best team the Hokies will have faced so far,
and it’s not close. However, Tech is also the most talented team on the schedule
for the Orange at this early stage of the season.

With guys like Fab Melo and McDonald’s All-American Rakeem Christmas on the
inside, and Baye Keita (6-10, 215, So.) and C.J. Fair (6-8, 212, So.) coming off
the bench, this is a very long Syracuse lineup, especially when you throw in a
6-8 wing like Jim Southerland. These guys are all perfect fits for Boeheim’s 2-3
zone defense. This will be the lengthiest team the Hokies have face, and points
will not be easy. Tech is going to have to have good ball movement, and they are
going to have to knock down their open jumpers.

They are also going to have to deal with the physical play that Syracuse
brings to the court. Tech has played three finesse teams this far, and Syracuse
is a completely different type of team. The Orange will bring a physical Big
East style that Tech’s freshmen have yet to see.

This is also a terrible matchup on the boards. They averaged 43.2 rebounds
per game, and have 72 offensive rebounds in just four games. That’s an awful
matchup for a small Virginia Tech frontcourt. Opponents have missed 150 shots
against the Hokies through three games (free throws and field goals), and Tech
has managed to come up with only 89 defensive rebounds. That’s an awful
defensive rebounding percentage, and you can bet the Orange are going into this
game with the goal of crashing the boards and putting VT out of the game early.

The Hokies have also struggled with turnovers in the early going, averaging
15 per game. The Orange forced an average of 22 turnovers per game in their
first four contests. Their length really gives opponents problems offensively.

This is a very tough matchup for a very young Virginia Tech basketball team.
They are playing a possible Final Four team in what basically amounts to a road
game, and they are at a decided disadvantage on the boards and in the turnover
numbers. To win, the Hokies will have to reverse the turnover trend and have a
good shooting night, because easy baskets are going to be very hard to come by.

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