After a two-week COVID pause, Syracuse put away back-to-back Ivy League opponent with relative ease to move back above .500. Up next is perennial ACC championship contender, Virginia, to begin the 2022 calendar year.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (7-5, 1-0 ACC) v. Virginia Cavaliers (7-5, 1-1)
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 1
- Game Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
- Network: ACC Network
Fearless Prediction: Syracuse 68, Virginia 61
The Juice Online Season Record: 1-0 (ACC)
This is not your typical Tony Bennett team. Instead of the usual Virginia roster featuring upperclassmen grown through the Virginia system, this Cavalier team is full of transfers.
Starting senior point guard Kihei Clark will be the only familiar face for Orange fans. He’s joined in the lineup by two transfers and two underclassmen, and unlike past years, Virginia lacks depth behind its starting five.
In a 67-50 loss to Clemson on Dec. 22, four of five starters played 28 minutes or more, and the bench combined for only 17 points in the loss.
While a double-digit loss to an ACC rival is disheartening, it is far from Virginia’s worst loss of the year. That came against in-state rival James Madison from the Colonial Athletic Association, the first time JMU had toppled Virginia in 12 tries.
Part of the issue for Virginia is their offense, as they are averaging just 61.8 ppg, which is 313th in the NCAA.
Forward Jayden Gardner, a senior transfer from East Carolina, leads the team at 14.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg. Fellow transfer Armaan Franklin (Indiana) is second on the team at 11.5 ppg, but they are the only players averaging over double figures.
As for the matchup with the Orange, Virginia has won six of the last seven matchups between the two teams dating back to 2018, but this Cavalier team lacks the experience of going against the Syracuse zone.
Virginia is also allowing teams to shoot 32.9 percent against them from downtown (171st in the NCAA) and lack the defensive intensity that has become synonymous with a Bennett coached team (55th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings).
As a result, the Orange should be able to shoot over and outrebound Virginia team and continue its winning streak.