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What UVA Basketball fans need to remember about Syracuse

trey murphy syracuse
Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Don’t get complacent. That’s the message to UVA hoops fans regarding Syracuse, an 81-58 ‘Hoos victim back on Jan. 25, an eternity ago, basketball-wise.

The Orange (16-8) has won seven of 10, and three in a row, since that loss, and is clearly an NCAA Tournament team, win or lose in Thursday’s ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

A win, of course, would seal the deal for Jim Boeheim, whose team could use another Quad 1 win – ‘Cuse is just 1-6 in Quad 1 games this season.

A big reason for the solid play of late has been the coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim (16.0 ppg, 40.5% FG, 34.9% 3FG) – who had a quiet nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in the loss in JPJ back in January.

Boeheim the Younger has averaged 20.3 points per game over his last six games, shooting  54.0 percent from the floor and 44.1 percent from three over that stretch.

In terms of volume, Boeheim has had three games with six makes from three in the last six – including his 6-of-12 effort on the way to 27 points in Syracuse’s 89-68 win over N.C. State on Wednesday in Greensboro.

Last time out: Big shooting night for the ‘Hoos

The issue for Syracuse in this matchup isn’t what the Orange can do on offense, but rather, what they can do on D.

Virginia was 14-of-31 from three in the win in Charlottesville on Jan. 25, with Sam Hauser connecting on 7-of-13 from long-range.

You know what Syracuse is going to do on defense with its 2-3 zone, and what you have to do to try to counter – stationing a guy at the foul line to act as a sort of second point guard, with a dunk guy on the blocks, and shooters on the wings.

Tony Bennett used Kihei Clark at the foul line, and though Clark had just four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the win in January, he also had nine assists, finding Hauser on the wings and Jay Huff (8-of-11 from the floor) in the dunk guy position all night long.

Trey Murphy III (16 points, 6-of-14 from the floor, 4-of-10 from three) also had a big night for UVA in the win in January.

How this one plays out

One advantage for Bennett: because Syracuse goes zone, UVA was able to maximize minutes for its starters, all of whom went at least 31 minutes.

Boeheim – the coach, not the player – prefers a short bench. He wouldn’t mind going six or seven in his rotation, if he could get away with it, and against Virginia, and its low-possession approach, he can.

I’d expect to see Bennett use Reece Beekman as the pure point on the offensive end, with Clark at the foul line second point position, Hauser and Murphy on the wings – with Murphy lurking baseline, and Huff stationed baseline on most sets.

Noteworthy: Huff attempted just one three in the win in January. His job was to lurk on the baseline, and be available for finishes at the rim.

The wrinkle comes, oddly, if Syracuse falls behind. We all remember the 2016 Elite Eight game, which Boeheim the Older turned down double digits late by going full-court press.

He tried the same down double digits in Charlottesville, and the Orange forced some turnovers – and got Virginia into what turned into a 70-possession game in the end.

Didn’t work this time out, but, you know it’s coming, if the game plays out the way it may very well.

This is where it should to Bennett’s advantage that he has two point guards on the floor for the bulk of his minutes.

Otherwise, the matchups seem to work out well for Virginia. Huff isn’t all that challenged by the lone Syracuse big, 6’10” senior Marek Dolezaj (10.2 ppg, 5.3 rebounds/g, 54.4% FG). Quincy Guerrier (14.5 ppg, 8.9 rebounds/g, 49.8% FG, 30.0% 3FG) and Alan Griffin (15.3 ppg, 6.6 rebounds/g, 44.4% FG, 37.6% 3FG) each went for double digits in the January game, but Guerrier was 6-of-16 from the floor, and Griffin 4-of-11.

Hauser and Murphy have those assignments.

Clark gets Syracuse point Joseph Girard (9.6 ppg, 3.3 assists/g, 36.0% FG, 32.2% 3FG), who had a quiet game – eight points on 3-of-7 shooting and two assists – in the first matchup.

Virginia’s best on-ball perimeter defender, Beekman (0.527 points per possession on defense, per Synergy Sports), gets another go at Boeheim, who has a couple of inches on Beekman, who, flip side, has physicality and athleticism on Boeheim.

At a glance

Efficiency data from

  • Offense: Syracuse 114.1 (23), Virginia 116.2 (13)
  • Defense: Syracuse 97.1 (86), 92.3 (31)
  • Tempo: Syracuse 69.2 (145), 60.1 (357)


Syracuse (16-8) vs. Virginia (17-6)
Thursday, noon

  • BartTorvik: 67-63, 67% win probability
  • KenPom: Virginia 69-65, 65% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

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