Syracuse goes for its third win in a row when it travels south for a rematch against Virginia Tech (12:00 p.m. ET / ACCNX) on Saturday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record 2-0): For the second straight Saturday the Syracuse basketball team ventures to the state of Virginia to seek revenge for an earlier home loss this season to an ACC rival.
What makes this week’s trip to Blacksburg different than last week’s journey to Charlottesville, however, is that the home team Virginia Tech is going upward with three straight wins, while last week’s foe UVA is going downward with three straight losses, since the Cavaliers drubbed the Hokies 65-39 on Jan. 4.
For Syracuse, each game provides room to grow, now with a modest two-game ACC winning streak to boot. The Orange has seemingly found their conference legs, and it’s good to see 7-8 players in the rotation which helps keep players just fresh enough in crunch time of what is likely to be a lot of evenly-matched games the rest of the way.
SU was up 9-points with just over 12:00 to play against Virginia Tech in the Dome just 10 days ago, before the Hokies went on a run which included two four-point plays in two minutes and held off the Orange 67-63.
In this relatively quick rematch of coaches Jim Boeheim and Tech’s first-year boss Mike Young, we see plenty of in-game adjustments and a back-and-forth affair in which the team with the ball last will make the final shot.
Despite a gallant and balanced offensive effort from the Orange that produces four double-figure scorers, Tech’s Landers Nolley beats the final buzzer with a follow-up basket for a stunning 72-70 Hokies victory over Syracuse.
WES CHENG (Season Record 7-2): It’s hard to think that less than two weeks ago, panic was setting in Central New York with an ugly home loss to Virginia Tech on Jan. 7. The loss dropped the Orange to 8-7, and 1-3 in conference play, the worst start to a season under Jim Boeheim’s storied coaching career.
Since then, the Orange has recovered, winning two in a row and climbing back to .500 in ACC play, which is good enough for a five-way tie for fifth place (and a coveted first-round bye in the ACC Tournament).
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has continued to be the surprise of the early conference season, with two more wins against NC State and Wake Forest, and has sole possession of fourth place in the ACC at 4-2, a game back of conference leaders, Duke, Florida State and Louisville.
KenPom rates this game as a coin-flip game, with the Hokies ranked 50th overall, and the Orange just behind them at 53. In my last prediction of this game, I noted the luck factor, which measures the deviation between a team’s actual winning percentage and what one would expect from its game-by-game efficiencies
Since that game, Syracuse has only gotten more unlucky (ranked 309th) while Virginia Tech has climbed (29th). I am a firm believer in regression to the mean. Virginia Tech has played above what the statistics say, while Syracuse is currently undervalued. I see the a revenge game against the Hokies with the Orange pulling out a 72-65 win.