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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Syracuse

syracuse jim boeheim
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Two teams that you hate running offense against: Virginia, and its Pack Line, and Syracuse, and its 2-3 zone.

You still try to run your sets against the Pack Line – your P&Rs, motion, post feeds – and you just try to run it better.

You can’t run your normal stuff against the 2-3. Just can’t.

Tony Bennett adapts better than most.

You station an offensive player, usually a big guard or a forward, around the free-throw line, try to get the ball there, and that guy has as his options: shoot an open 12- to 15-footer, dribble-drive to rim, dump off to a big on the baseline, kick it out to either wing, return the ball to the point out front.

That guy, in past years, has been Malcolm Brogdon, Isaiah Wilkins, De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome.

6’8” senior Sam Hauser (14.5 ppg, 7.4 rebs/g, 51.9% FG, 41.0% 3FG) seems the logical choice for this year’s group.

You might also see 7’1” senior Jay Huff (13.3 ppg, 5.8 rebs/g, 62.4% FG, 44.1% 3FG) get some reps there.

Both seem ideal because of their height, which presents a good target for the entry pass, and gives them vision over the defense in the lane; and their ability to hit the shot or dribble-drive.

You may also see Bennett go a bit unconventional – with 5’9” point guard Kihei Clark (10.2 ppg, 4.1 assists/g, 48.4% FG, 23.8% 3FG).

Bennett has been using Clark in post-ups to take advantage of his quickness and his passing – the idea being that having Hauser, Huff and 6’9” sharpshooter Trey Murphy III (10.4 ppg, 53.2% FG, 50.9% 3FG) on the wings and up top to space the floor gives Clark room to create.

Interesting X’s and O’s on that end of the floor.

Breaking down Syracuse

Jim Boeheim is doing this year what Jim Boeheim does every year – the 2-3 being built around a ball-pressure point guard, size on the wings to close out on perimeter shooters, a shot-blocker in the middle.

And, a short bench. Boeheim basically goes with six guys – the zone keeping his guys’ legs fresh.

Because of that, you see five guys averaging in double-digits. When you go six-deep, somebody has to score.

The best of the lot is 6’7” sophomore Quincy Guerrier (16.9 ppg, 9.5 rebs/g, 58.0% FG, 35.3% 3FG).

Need to keep tabs on him on lane cuts – Synergy has him shooting 17-of-23 (73.9%) on those, scoring 1.552 points per possession – on post-ups (9-of-12, 75.0%, 1.471 PPP) and on the boards (15-of-22, 68.2%, 1.346 PPP on stickbacks).

Basically, he’s a beast in the lane.

6’5” junior Alan Griffin (15.7 ppg, 7.2 rebs/g, 46.0% FG, 35.3% 3FG) is good off screens (12-of-21, 57.1%, 1.16 PPP), really good on lane cuts (8-of-11, 72.7%, 1.417 PPP), not as good on spot-ups (18-of-51, 35.3%, 0.883 PPP), though he leads the team in shots off spot-ups.

6’5” junior Buddy Boeheim, yes, coach’s son, is struggling a bit this year from behind the arc – shooting just 28.8 percent from long-range this season, down an order of magnitude from the 37.0 percent mark he posted in 2019-2020.

Still have to account for Boeheim (15.1 ppg, 38.2% FG), because you want to assume he’ll break out eventually.

6’10” senior Marek Dolezaj (11.2 ppg, 5.5 rebs/g, 56.2% FG) seems like he’s been at Syracuse a hundred years.

6’1” point guard Joseph Girard (10.8 ppg, 4.2 assists/g, 34.9% FG, 35.4% 3FG) is the team’s best guy off screens (8-of-11, 72.7%, 1.917 PPP) and the best spot-up guy (16-of-43, 37.2%, 1.064 PPP), but isn’t very good on pick-and-rolls (9-of-37, 24.3%, 15 turnovers in 55 possessions, 0.455 PPP).

In general, this Syracuse team isn’t effective in pick-and-roll – shooting 34.3 percent, with an 18.5 percent turnover rate, scoring just .712 PPP.

They only use P&R on 13.3 percent of their possessions. They get most of their offense on spot-ups (24.6%) and transition (19.7%), and that’s where you really need to watch out for them.

Synergy rates Syracuse as “excellent” in transition – averaging 1.158 PPP, shooting 56.9 percent.

The guys to watch out for in transition and on secondary breaks: Guerrier (19-of-25, 76.0%, 1.621 PPP), Dolezaj (10-of-11, 90.9%, 1.263 PPP) and sixth man Kadary Richmond (18-of-24, 75.0%, 1.25 PPP).

Look for Boeheim to try to push the ball up the floor the way Georgia Tech was able to do in the first half Saturday night to create shots early in the shot clock before Virginia can set up its Pack Line.

Bennett was eventually able to counter by directing more ball pressure from Clark and Reece Beekman (5.5 ppg, 45.5% FG, 31.3% 3FG).

May need to see that sooner in this one, rather than later.

At a glance

  • Offense: Syracuse 112.7 (28), Virginia 115.4 (11)
  • Defense: Syracuse 95.3 (57), Virginia 90.8 (18)
  • Tempo: Syracuse 69.3 (161), Virginia 59.6 (357)

Efficiency data from


Syracuse (9-4, 3-3 ACC) at #12 Virginia (10-2, 6-0 ACC)
7 p.m., ESPN

  • KenPom: Virginia 68-61, 73% win probability
  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +6, 73.7% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Virginia 67-61, 77% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press