Date: Saturday, January 3
TV: RSN (Check local listings)
Minus Joey van Zegeren, the Hokies will kick off their ACC schedule at home against Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. The Orange are 9-4 on the season, and their 2-3 zone and tough inside presence will create major problems for a Virginia Tech team that was already lacking inside presence even before the suspension of their leading rebounder.
Buzz Williams said that van Zegeren was indefinitely suspended for “a lack of discipline and self-control at practice.” His absence costs the Hokies 5.3 rebounds per game, and Tech was already one of the worst rebounding teams in the country even before the loss of van Zegeren.
Meanwhile, Syracuse will bring one of the top frontcourts in the ACC to Blacksburg.
C Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250, r-Sr.): 17.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg
F Chris McCullough (6-10, 212, Fr.): 10.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg
F Tyler Roberson (6-8, 212, So.): 7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg
Though the Orange don’t have a tremendous amount of depth this year. Jim Boeheim is using an eight-man rotation, and only seven players are averaging more than 11.8 minutes per game. That said, Syracuse still has plenty of talent.
G Kaleb Joseph (6-3, 165, Fr.): 7.5 ppg, 5.2 apg. Joseph isn’t a threat from the outside (4-of-19 from three-point range), but the freshman point guard was a top 50 recruit with a major offer list.
G Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195, r-Jr.): 13.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg. Cooney is a very dangerous three-point shooter. Over 50% of his field goals have come from the outside.
G/F Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200, r-Jr.): 9.6 points, 4.1 rpb. The Duke transfer is finally seeing major playing time, and he is making the most of it. He had a 24-point, 8-assist game earlier this year against Long Beach.
This isn’t your prototypical Syracuse team. They are young and they lack depth. However, they still have talent, and their size on the inside is a major matchup advantage against Virginia Tech. Their defeats have been at the hands of four teams who are better than the Hokies…
Cal (73-59): Cal is 10-3 and #72 nationally by Ken Pomeroy
Michigan (68-65): 8-5 and #77 nationally by Ken Pomeroy
St. John’s (69-57): 11-2 and #22 nationally by Ken Pomeroy
Villanova (82-77): 13-0 and #6 by Ken Pomeroy
As a comparison, the Hokies are 8-5 and ranked #183 by the Pomeroy ratings.
If Virginia Tech had more size and a little more experience, this game would be an upset possibility. However, Tech’s lack of frontcourt talent and inside depth makes a victory an extreme long shot.