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Preview: What Virginia Basketball fans need to know about Syracuse

Chris Graham
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Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

The first thing to notice that’s different with Adrian Autry running the show at Syracuse: he actually uses his bench.

Jim Boeheim, the coach at Syracuse dating back to James Naismith and peach baskets, hated his bench with the passion of a thousand suns.

Autry, Boeheim’s long-time lieutenant, gave eight guys (gasp!) double-digit minutes in Syracuse’s 80-57 win over LSU in the ACC/SEC Challenge on Tuesday.

Syracuse (5-2) at Virginia (6-1)
Time/TV: 12 noon, ESPN2
KenPom: Virginia 69-59, 82% win probability

The best of the lot is 6’4” point guard Judah Mintz (20.4 ppg, 4.1 assists/g, 45.7% FG, 42.9% 3FG), who in addition to being able to score from the paint and perimeter gets to the line an awful lot (9.0 free-throw attempts per game).

Last season, as a freshman, Mintz lit up Virginia for 19.0 points per game on 15-of-27 shooting (55.5%).

Virginia point guard Reece Beekman is coming off a game defensive effort in Virginia’s 59-47 win over #14 Texas A&M in which he held A&M point guard Wade Taylor, averaging 20.0 points per game coming in, to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting, with five turnovers.

Beekman was stellar on D, but he was a game-time decision with a knee injury, so his knee health is something worth keeping an eye on there.

The other two double-digit scorers for Syracuse are 6’7” sophomore Chris Bell (14.6 ppg, 40.2% FG, 37.9% 3FG) and 6’4” Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rebounds/g, 38.6% FG, 5.6% 3FG).

That 5.6 percent from three line item is not a misprint – Starling is 1-of-18 from long-range this season; he was a 29.9 percent shooter from three as a freshman at Notre Dame last year, so ostensibly, he’s better than what he’s shown so far this season.

The other rotation guy worth noting is 7’4” Florida State transfer Naheem McLeod (5.7 ppg, 5.3 rebounds/g, 2.9 blocks/g, 69.6% FG).

McLeod is a perfect fit as a huge five on the back line of the 2-3 zone.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].