As we enter the first full week of March, every game is critical as teams jockey for position not only in their conference standings, but for potential seeding for the NCAA tournament. Monday’s ACC contest between the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers (26-2, 14-2 in the ACC) and Syracuse (19-10, 10-6 in the ACC) is no different. For Virginia, they are trying to keep a hold on not only their number 2 overall ranking, which would likely have them as a number 1 seed in the tournament, but also on their share of the ACC title (which at 14-2 they share with North Carolina). For Syracuse, they are trying to solidify their placement in the NCAA tournament, and an upset victory over Virginia would certainly boost their positioning. This matchup will take place at the Carrier Dome, home to Syracuse, with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 pm ET.
Coming into this one, Virginia has been rolling having won six in a row. In that span, they beat No. 5 North Carolina and No. 20 Virginia Tech, and most recently beat Pitt 73-49. For Syracuse, they have gone 5-5 in their last ten games, losing to teams like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and Florida State. In their most recent contest, though, they beat Wake Forest 79-54.
In this contest, the Virginia Cavaliers come in as 6.5-point favorites despite playing on the road. The over/under for this game is set at 124 points.
By The Numbers
Defensively, Virginia has statistically been the best defense in all of college basketball. Their top-ranked defense is allowing a paltry 54.3 points per game. They are especially tough against opposing shooters as teams are shooting just 37.4% against them (good for 4th in the nation). Syracuse isn’t too bad either, though. The Orange rank 37th in the country, allowing just 65.2 points per game.
On the offensive side, neither of these two exactly light up the scoreboard. Virginia comes in a little higher between the two, averaging 71.8 points per game (205th overall). Syracuse is not too far behind, though, as they come in at 248th, averaging 70.3 points per game. Needless to say, the emphasis of this game lies significantly more on the defensive end than the offensive, hence the low over/under.
Virginia Trying To Flex Their Muscles With Top Ranked “D”
Coach Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers have consistently shown that they are one of the best teams in the nation all season long. With the NCAA tournament fast approaching, they hope to keep showing that consistency to hopefully make a deep run into March.
Leading the way for the Cavaliers this season has been the tandem of guards De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy. For Hunter, he is averaging 15.2 points per game on 54.7% shooting, including 46% shooting from behind the arc. In addition to his scoring, he is averaging 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Very similarly, Guy is averaging 15.1 points per game on 45.6% shooting and 43.9% from the three. He is averaging 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Aside from these two, the next leading scorer is Ty Jerome, who is averaging 13 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. After that, though, there is a pretty big drop-off, as the next leading scorer is averaging 7.2 points (Mamadi Diakite).
Syracuse Looking For Major Upset
Jim Boeheim consistenly puts a solid group of players on the court year in and year out. While they may not be one of the elites this year, the Orange still can come at you with a solid defense, even if they lack the depth in terms of scoring.
The biggest contributor for Boeheim’s team on the offensive end has been guard Tyus Battle. On the season, Battle is averaging 17.7 points on 44.5% shooting. He is also averaging 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Aside from Battle, the Orange have two others averaging double-digits. Elijah Hughes (13.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals) and Oshae Brissett (12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1 steal) have both had really solid seasons thus far.
Virginia Strikes Again
Syracuse has been pretty solid at home at 13-5 this season, but Virginia has been solid no matter where they play. Currently, Virginia is 9-1 when playing a true road game and has really only shown blips in the radar when facing Duke. Other than that, they have been near untouchable this season and can lock it down on defense against the best of them. Take into account the fact that Syracuse is certainly not the best of them on the offensive side and I envision this being a really low scoring affair. Yes, Syracuse is solid on the defensive end as well, but I still see Virginia getting enough scoring, probably off of defensive turnovers, to cover the 6.5 points. I like Virginia at -6.5 in this one.