Syracuse Basketball: Top keys to upsetting Virginia on the road

Syracuse basketball couldn’t buy a bucket in its last battle with Virginia. Hopefully, the Orange will fare better this Saturday afternoon.

Syracuse basketball is in a tough spot. There’s no denying it. The Orange just dropped a duo of duels on the Hill, to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, by a combined five points. Both affairs proved there for the taking, but the ‘Cuse couldn’t seal the deal.

Now Syracuse (8-7, 1-3) will head to Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon for a rematch with the defending national champions, No. 18 Virginia (11-3, 3-1).

As you may recall, but understandably would want to forget altogether, the Orange got pasted by the Cavaliers in Central New York in the 2019-20 stanza opener for both squads. The ‘Cuse collected a pathetic 34 points in a 14-point setback.

In all fairness, the Syracuse offense has improved since that November domination by UVA. The primary issue for the Orange is its clear inconsistency on both ends of the court, from game to game, and from half to half.

The encouraging news is that the Cavaliers are having their own challenges in the current campaign. Earlier this week, they fell on the road to Boston College. And while Virginia only gives up 47.6 points every 40 minutes, an incredible feat, the Cavaliers generate a mere 55.7 points on offense, which is pretty terrible, but not all that shocking, after a huge chunk of UVA’s scoring departed following the 2018-19 term.

The Cavaliers, at No. 64 in the NCAA NET system, don’t have an overly impressive resume at this juncture. They’ve defeated Arizona State, North Carolina, Vermont, and those aforementioned Hokies, among others. Virginia’s two additional losses are to Purdue, which blew out the Cavaliers, and South Carolina.

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Cavaliers possess a 77.6 percent chance to prevail over the ‘Cuse, which is at No. 95 in the NET. Interestingly enough, Syracuse has an edge versus UVA in a bunch of statistical categories, save for points allowed and free-throw shooting.

Since the Orange’s 2-3 zone often will slow down the opponent’s offense, and the Cavaliers tend to compete at a methodical pace as it is when they are at that end of the floor, possessions will come at a premium in this encounter.

To succeed, the ‘Cuse has to limit its careless miscues, secure as many transition points as possible, and not enable Virginia to crash the offensive glass. Furthermore, the Cavaliers connect on a paltry 27.4 percent from beyond the arc, so Syracuse must remain active in its zone and get UVA to hoist up difficult attempts from the 3-point line.

Overall in their series together, the Orange is 5-8 against the Cavaliers, and Virginia has captured four in a row. The Cavaliers are 8-1 so far in 2019-20 at John Paul Jones Arena, which means that the ‘Cuse is in for a fierce bout.

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The one promising facet for Syracuse is that UVA struggles to score. Then again, so did the Orange when the Cavaliers suited up at the Carrier Dome a few months ago. An intriguing contest seems destined to arrive this Saturday.

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