Syracuse plays its regular season home finale when it hosts Virginia on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
SAUGAT SEN (Season Record: 1-3): Another ACC regular season. Another year where Virginia is atop the ACC standings.
The Cavaliers have just two losses this season (both to Duke) thanks to its typical suffocating defense that leads the country in points against (54.3). This, of course, is nothing new for a Tony Bennett coached team.
The difference this year is that Bennett’s team had added an offensive dimension.
With NBA lottery prospect De’Andre Hunter having joined a starting lineup that also includes All-ACC returning starters Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, this Cavaliers team will be the best offensive version that the Orange have faced in their short ACC history.
Expect Frank Howard to struggle at the point and for Tyus Battle to have to carry the team to keep this close.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is 1-5 against Bennett in the regular season ACC play, and I expect the losing streak to continue. Even a hot shooting Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes cannot keep the Orange from dropping their final home game of the season.
Syracuse will fall to a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, with the final score Virginia 73, Syracuse 62.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 8-6): As Saugat writes above, Virginia has finally found a complementary offense to pair with its stingy defense.
And that’s not to say that their offense was necessary bad before. In 2018, the Cavaliers ranked 30th in the KenPom rankings in adjusted offensive efficiency. This year? They’re No. 4 behind just Duke, Gonzaga and Tennessee, all teams that are in the running for No. 1 seeds.
Hunter embodies the efficiency that Bennett preaches. The sophomore is averaging 15.3 ppg on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 45.9 percent from downtown. As a team, the Cavaliers shoot 47.6 percent from the field and 39.5 from beyond the arc, while possessing a 1.58 assist to turnover ratio.
Defensively, Virginia is a nightmare as well. On top of being the best in the country in points allowed, the ‘Hoos are No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, allowing just 85.6 points per 100 possessions.
By all metrics, Virginia is a team that is built to bust a 2-3 zone, something that Bennett has done exceedingly well over time. Aside from Roy Williams, no one has had more success against Boeheim since Syracuse has joined the ACC than Bennett.
I, too, expect more of the same, with Syracuse falling 65-55 to Virginia on Monday evening.