Virginia Tech (10-4, 1-2) returns to action on Tuesday night when they face the Syracuse Orange (8-6, 1-2) in the Carrier Dome (9 PM, ACC Network). The Hokies are 4-9 all-time against the Orange and have won two of the last three.
Virginia Tech is looking for their second road win in the ACC this season, while Jim Boeheim’s men will look to pick up some momentum after not playing very well in their non-conference schedule and losing at home to Notre Dame this past weekend.
The Orange began the season with a 48-34 home loss to UVA. As poorly as the Hokies played offensively against the Hoos over the weekend, Syracuse was even worse in that home loss in the Carrier Dome. They then went on to rout Georgia Tech 97-63 on the road before falling 88-87 this past weekend to Notre Dame.
In the non-conference portion of their schedule, the Orange lost all four games to name opponents – Oklahoma State, Penn State, Iowa and Georgetown – and they lost them all by double-figures. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Syracuse’s best non-conference victory came back on November 13 when they beat No. 127 Colgate 70-54.
It goes without saying that thus far this has not been a typical Syracuse basketball team, and that starts on the defensive end. The Orange play their patented 2-3 matchup zone, but they rank only No. 107 in the country in defensive efficiency, while ranking No. 33 in offensive efficiency. As a comparison, here is where they have ranked in defensive efficiency since they joined the ACC…
2013-14: No. 13
2014-15: No. 20
2015-16: No. 18
2016-17: No. 119
2017-18: No. 5
2018-19: No. 30
As you can see, this year’s Syracuse defense has thus far been their second-worst of the ACC era. Coincidentally, that 2016-17 team only made the NIT, and that’s exactly where the Orange will be headed this season without an improvement on the defensive end of the court.
Like the Hokies, Syracuse is young. Here’s where both teams rank in experience, per Ken Pomeroy…
Syracuse: No. 310
Virginia Tech: No. 349
That’s out of 353 Division I basketball teams. Experience may not be as much of a factor in this game as most of Virginia Tech’s other ACC contests. However, Jim Boeheim likes to pack his 2-3 matchup zone roster with as much length as possible. Syracuse ranks No. 11 nationally in average height, while Virginia Tech is No. 335.
Here’s a look at the Syracuse starting lineup…
G Joseph Girard III: (6-1, 181, Fr.): 11.9 ppg. Girard is a 95.1% free throw shooter and leads the team with 22 steals.
G Buddy Boeheim (6-6, 195, So.): 15.7 ppg. Boeheim is a 41.1% three-point shooter.
F Elijah Hughes (6-6, 215, r-Jr.): 19.7 ppg. Hughes leads the team with 66 assists.
F Marek Dolezaj (6-10, 185, Jr.): 10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg. Third on the team with 33 minutes per game.
F Bourama Sidibe (6-10, 210, Jr.): 5.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg. Sidibe is a very good rebounder, but hasn’t been a huge threat on the offensive end.
Four of the five Syracuse starters average over 30 minutes per game, and the Orange rank No. 352 out of 353 teams in bench minutes. This is not a deep basketball team, but they rank just No. 243 nationally in tempo, so the starters don’t get worn out.
It’s far too early in the season to consider any game a “must-win” game, but Syracuse badly needs to come up with a home victory against the visiting Hokies. If the Orange lose to Tech, they’ll drop to 1-3 in the ACC before traveling to UVA this weekend to face the team that already held them to 34 points in the Carrier Dome. An 8-8 (1-4 ACC) start would mean lots of questions – and lots of heat – for 75-year old head coach Jim Boeheim, who said this past spring that he has no plans to retire.
This won’t be the only meeting this month between these two teams. The Hokies and Orange will play again in Cassell Coliseum on January 18, only 11 days after tonight’s game.