Virginia Tech tips off the ACC portion of their schedule on Sunday night with a trip to the Carrier Dome to face the Syracuse Orange. Both teams come into this game with an 11-2 record, and both are hoping to get conference play started the right way.
Both of these teams have been beaten by a ranked opponent from a major conference, and both have been upset by a mid-major. While the Hokies played Kentucky tough in Rupp Arena, Syracuse was handled by Kansas 76-60 in Miami. Tech was upset in Madison Square Garden by Saint Louis, while the Orange were beaten at home on December 22 by St. Bonaventure. When you look at the overall resume of the Bonnies however, they are a good team. They are 11-2, and they also have a road win at Maryland under their belt.
After facing the Hokies, Syracuse will play at Wake Forest, host Notre Dame, and then play back-to-back road games at UVA and Florida State. Tech plays UVA at home on Wednesday night, hosts Pitt on Saturday, and then runs a tough five-game gauntlet: at Wake Forest, at Louisville, home against Florida State and North Carolina, and then at Notre Dame. That’s why starting out 1-0 in the ACC will be extremely important for both of these teams.
Virginia Tech does hold the edge in most analytical stats. The Hokies rank No. 35 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, while Syracuse is No. 48. Here’s a look at some of the advanced statistics…
Offensive Efficiency: VT #4, Syracuse #141
Effective FG%: VT #1, Syracuse #278
Total Rebounding Rate: VT #45, Syracuse #6
Turnovers per Possession: VT #92, Syracuse #154
Defensive Efficiency: VT #37, Syracuse #22
Opp. Effective FG%: VT #30, Syracuse #32
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: VT #139 , Syracuse #313
Most of those numbers point to Virginia Tech having the edge. I’m guessing that those of you reading this were not aware that the Hokies ranked so high in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage defense. On the other hand, the schedules have been different as well. Virginia Tech’s strength of schedule ranks just No. 242 in the nation right now, while Syracuse’s ranks No. 12, per RPIForecast.com.
Syracuse has started the same lineup in all 13 games, but those are the only five players who have appeared in every game for Jim Boeheim. The Orange used just seven players in their most recent game, a 62-47 home win over Eastern Michigan. Here’s a look at their projected starting lineup…
G Frank Howard (6-5, 205, Jr.): 15.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, team-high 80 assists
G Tyus Battle (6-6, 205, So.): 20.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, the best player for the Orange
F Oshae Brissett (6-8, 210, Fr.): 15.2 ppg, 10 rpg, seven double-doubles this season
F Matthew Moyer (6-8, 215, r-Fr.): 4.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, Moyer averages just over 20 mpg
C Paschal Chuckwu (7-2, 228, Jr.): 5.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, team-high 42 blocks
Syracuse will have a length advantage over the Hokies, as do most teams. Jim Boeheim builds his team around his vaunted 2-3 matchup zone every season, and that zone has made life very difficult for opponents through the years. However, Virginia Tech has had some success attacking the Syracuse zone since Buzz Williams was hired. The Hokies and the Orange always play good, entertaining games, with Tech picking up an 83-73 win in Cassell Coliseum last season. The previous three meetings went like this…
January 3, 2015: Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 66
February 3, 2015: Syracuse 72, Virginia Tech 70
February 2, 2016: Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 60 (Overtime)
We can expect another tight contest on New Year’s Eve.
If teams are fairly evenly matched, as these teams appear to be, the advantage generally goes to the home team. This game will be played in the Carrier Dome, which hasn’t been kind to Virginia Tech in football or men’s basketball throughout the years. However, the Hokies do have an advantage that most other Syracuse opponents will not have: they’ve seen Jim Boeheim’s defense already this year.
Virginia Tech played Washington in Madison Square Garden back on November 17, and the Huskies are coached by Mike Hopkins, who was a Syracuse assistant from 1996 through last season. He even served as interim head coach for a time in 2015-16. He was expected to take over the Syracuse program whenever Boeheim retired, and he was even named Head Coach-Designate by the school on June 25, 2015. Hopkins couldn’t wait any longer however, and he took over the Washington program in the offseason.
The Hokies lit up the Washington zone and beat the Huskies 103-79. They were 30-of-50 (60%) from the field, and 15-of-22 (68.2%) from three-point range. Syracuse will play the zone a lot better than the Huskies did that night, but it’s good that Tech has already scouted it and played against it once already this season.
Tonight’s game will be televised by ESPNU at 6pm.