Syracuse Orange v. Virginia Tech Hokies Predictions (1/7/20)

Syracuse vs Niagara
Dec 28, 2019: Syracuse Orange forward Marek Dolezaj drives to the rim against the Niagara Purple Eagles at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse will try to pick up its first win of 2020 when it hosts Virginia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network) on Tuesday at the Carrier Dome. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Jim Stechschulte and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.

JIM STECHSCHULTE (Season Record 1-0): For the second time in four days, Syracuse will face an ACC opponent ranked within shouting distance of them in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings.

The Orange enter Tuesday night’s contest ranked #62 with the Hokies at #69. Tech hasn’t beaten a major conference team in six weeks, while the only thing keeping SU from that same claim is their rout of Georgia Tech, meaning they haven’t done it in “only” a month.

There aren’t a lot of statistical differences that suggests an advantage for one of these teams that are both shooting 44.4 percent from the field and hoist a lot of 3s. SU forces more turnovers while Virginia Tech doesn’t give the ball away often. The Hokies don’t do a good job on the offensive glass, but the Orange don’t rebound well, in general.

One difference, though, is that Syracuse gets to the line more frequently and does better while there than VT. While it will be another three-point festival at the Dome, the real difference will come from the shooting behind the closer line. Give this one to Syracuse, 71-66.

» Related: Notre Dame uses late run to push past Syracuse

WES CHENG (Season Record: 6-0): As Jim wrote yesterday in his column on The Juice, this year’s Orange team is the worst defensive team since the 2016-17 team, and a specific glaring weakness is SU’s perimeter defense.

Syracuse is coming off a one-point loss to Notre Dame in which the Orange surrendered 15 3-pointers to their adversaries. And, of course, the other bugaboo has been protecting its defensive glass. John Mooney, the NCAA’s leading rebounder, feasted on the offensive glass, pulling down six of the Irish’s 17 offensive rebounds.

The good news is that Virginia Tech is not as good a rebounding team as the Irish, with the Hokies averaging six less rebounds per game. The bad news? Virginia Tech takes (and makes) more 3-pointers (37.9 percent) than Notre Dame (34.9).

That should be a good predictor that it’ll be another close game, with Syracuse and the Hokies playing even with each other throughout the night.

But one stat I’d like to point out is KenPom’s “Luck” statistic, which is a metric of actual performance versus expected performance. Syracuse is ranked 304 in this category, while Virginia Tech is 75th.

Why do I point this out? I think it is the proverbial “Syracuse is due for one” game despite their overall KenPom rankings being similar. Syracuse picks up its second ACC win with a 78-74 win.

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