What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Syracuse

uva basketballThe ACC rewarded UVA for its run to the 2019 national title with a road game to open the 2019-2020 season.

Wait. Gets better.

Not just any ol’ road game. Not a road game in a tiny gym against a team that went 9-23 in an AQ conference.

How about you open your title defense in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse?

Sounds like a lot of fun.

Tony Bennett addressed how opening with Syracuse – Wednesday night, 9 p.m., ACC Network, be there, or be square – has impacted his preseason prep.

“We’re practicing against the zone. I think we’re doing that a lot,” he said, then chuckled.

Even better, that, having to break in an inexperienced backcourt – Bennett loses De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy – against that Syracuse 2-3 zone.

On Jim Boeheim’s side of the ledger, he has a lot to account for in terms of losses as well, in the form of three of his top four scorers from a year ago – Tyus Battle (17.2 ppg), Oshae Brissett (12.4 ppg) and Frank Howard (8.9 ppg).

‘Cuse does have 6’6” senior Elijah Hughes (13.7 ppg, 36.9 percent shooting from three) to build around.

The two next most important guys might be a freshman – 6’7” forward Quincy Garrier, who is being talked about as a possible NBA early entrant.

Jalen Carey, a 6’3” sophomore, figures to slide into the starting point guard slot after getting 12.2 minutes a game as a freshman in 2018-2019.

Buddy Boeheim, a 6’5” sophomore wing with an obvious pedigree, didn’t play like a coach’s son, averaging 6.8 points a game and shooting 35.3 percent from behind the arc as a freshman.

Marek Dolezaj, a 6’10” junior who seems like he’s been at Syracuse for six years, also figures to get more minutes, after averaging 21.6 minutes per game as a sophomore.

Both coaches may feel that they get a bit of a break facing an opponent that has a lot of new guys to work in to a system that isn’t all that easy to pick up.

Both, of course, also have issues on their own end in that respect.

“We’ve started on the road before with teams, but not a conference game, so there’s the newness of that. And the newness of our team, those two combined make for a lot of uncertainty. But I don’t think the way you’re preparing is different. You still have things you need to get done,” Bennett said.

For Bennett, the focus is on getting his squad ready to play against the most difficult 2-3 zone in all of college basketball.

“You don’t get a lot of that when you scrimmage other teams. Not a lot of teams play similar to what Syracuse does. You try to emulate to the best of your ability in practice,” Bennett said.

Story by Chris Graham

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