Syracuse can stamp its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an upset win against top-seeded Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday at 12 p.m. (TV: ESPN/ESPN2). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman gives his predictions below.
Season Record: 4-2
For a rivalry that only spans 15 games in total, the bulk of which have been played since 2007, Syracuse against Virginia includes three NCAA matchups topped by the incredible Malachi Richardson-led comeback (21 second half points) in the 2016 Elite Eight game in Chicago.
In this latest postseason meeting in the ACC Tournament, SU again has a chance to get revenge for a regular season defeat on the road as it did in ‘16.
To pull that off it’s going to take another strong defensive effort as in Wednesday’s win over North Carolina State, and while it’s unrealistic to expect that the Orange will hit 14 3-pointers that blew open the win over the Wolfpack, it’s equally unrealistic to think that the Cavaliers will hit the same 14 treys that they did in their 81-58 domination on January 25.
The Syracuse zone usually tightens up as the season rolls into March. While UVA won’t be as unprepared as let’s say a team that has only one day to practice against a simulation of the 2-3, it’s safe to assume the Cavaliers won’t get as many open looks as they did in that Big Monday performance.
The Orange offense has to continue to flow with crisp passing against the UVA “Pack-Line” defense, find the hot hand which could be several options, and if the shots don’t fall, at least draw free throw opportunities.
» Related: Syracuse needs two ACC Tournament wins says ESPN analyst
Another difference since January is Syracuse bench production. Kadary Richmond, Robert Braswell, and Jesse Edwards have made significant contributions down the stretch, and Edwards in particular could use his minutes to provide a different feel at both ends of the court.
We thought the regular season game would go down to the wire instead of essentially being over at halftime. With Virginia winning the ACC regular season title, and SU playing its best basketball of the season, we’re confident that this game will come down to the final few possessions.
In a stunner, an Alan Griffin jumper will roll in with a few seconds left to propel Syracuse to an upset victory over top-seed Virginia 66-64, and an accompanying NCAA Tournament at-large selection.
For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page, follow us @TheJuiceOnline and listen to our podcast.