Syracuse Basketball: ACC Battle With Virginia Will Be A Turn-Back-The-Clock, Defensive Struggle

By Gregory Philson
Virginia Cavaliers
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It seems when the Virginia Cavaliers welcome the Syracuse Orange to Charlottesville in a battle between the top-two ACC teams Saturday, the hoops should be peach baskets, the three-point should be pulled up and the game should be broadcasted in black-and-white.

While the game is a battle of the best teams in the conference, it will not be the easiest on the eyes for any basketball fan — no matter how much he/she likes defense. Neither of these teams has been shiny, proficient and efficient on offense, but the defenses are incredibly tough to play against.

Virginia is No. 1 team in the nation in points allowed (55.3 PPG) and takes a large amount of pride in slowing the game down below a snail’s pace. Virginia’s main goal is to lull teams to sleep and then attack. This is exactly what coach Tony Bennett‘s team did against Miami Wednesday. The Cavaliers allowed the Hurricanes to hang around, but eventually the pace and persistence of the Hoos’ defense was too much. A seven-point halftime lead turned into a 25-point victory. Miami shot 26 percent from the field. Virginia has some talented offensive players — namely Joe Harris — but does not need to rely on him at all.

Syracuse suffered back-to-back losses and should have dropped a third against the Maryland Terrapins on Monday. Syracuse’s offense was terrible in all three games, but the 2-3 zone defense was still as tough to beat as it has been all season. For whatever reason, teams seem way too scared to go at the defense from the foul line area. Maryland players stood outside for most of the game and were able to hang around because of the lackluster play of the Syracuse offense. Virginia will probably attempt to attack the zone in some way, but if the Cavaliers do not start with bringing a post player up to the foul line and having the offense start from there, they will struggle like every other team has against coach Jim Boeheim‘s club.

It is guaranteed the game Saturday will not set any scoring records, but both of these teams will display defenses that could be good enough to take each very deep into March.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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