Virginia will face the Syracuse Orange in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at 12 PM Estern Time in Greensboro, televised on ESPN. The Hoos prevailed in their only meeting with the Orange this season, 81-58 in Charlottesville.
What Syracuse has done this season
Syracuse advanced to the quarterfinals with an 89-68 drubbing of NC State. They’ll enter with a 16-8 overall record, finishing in 8th place in the ACC at 9-7 during the regular season. ESPN guru Joe Lunardi has them as the first team out of the NCAA Tournament in his latest bracketology as of Wednesday afternoon. They have a lot at stake. This game likely will determine whether their name is called on Selection Sunday.
Breaking Down Syracuse
The Orange are led in scoring by the head coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim (16.0 ppg). He exploded for 27 against NC State. Illinois transfer Alan Griffin (15.3 ppg) has had a big year. Along with sophomore Joseph Girard (9.6 ppg), those are the three primary guards. They’re all heavily reliant on the three-point shot, each attempting over five per game on average.
Sophomore forward Quincy Guerrier (14.5 ppg) has probably been their most valuable player this season. It’ll be important to keep a body on him. He’s terrific on the offensive glass. 6’10 senior Marek Dolejaq (10.2 ppg) anchors the middle. Freshman Kadary Richmond (6.8 ppg) has been a key multi-positional piece for them as well. They’ll often run offense through their forwards. Dolejaq and Richmond both average over three assists.
Going against Syracuse means dealing with Jim Boeheim’s patented zone defense. That’s always the first challenge. As usual, they’re long and active on the frontline. Boeheim is great at making subtle in-game adjustments, taking away things that were previously working. They lead the ACC is blocked shots and are second in steals. You have to hit some three-pointers to loosen it up, and then make good decisions in the interior. Virginia had success in their first meeting with Kihei Clark operating in the middle of the zone.
Syracuse will win if
The Orange can keep Virginia off-balance with their zone. It’s important for them to force turnovers and get some easy transition points. Their guards are capable of hitting tough contested shots. They’ll need to in order to pull off the upset.
Virginia will win if
The Hoos can continue to maximize Sam Hauser on offense coming off his brilliant performance against Louisville. They’ll need to make smart decisions with whoever operates in the middle of the zone.
Score Prediction: Virginia 73 Syracuse 64
(Image: Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress)