Syracuse prepares to face inconsistent Virginia Tech in first ACC road matchup

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Fifty-one years ago. That had been the last time Syracuse won a regulation game with fewer than 50 points — the Orange defeated Kent State 36-35 on Dec. 1, 1962.But on Saturday, SU edged Miami (Fla.) 49-44 in its first Atlantic Coast Conference matchup as a league member. The Hurricanes’ hazardous 1-2-2 matchup zone kept the Orange without a field goal for the first 8:50 of the second half as SU’s offense had its worst stretch of the season.After the game, head coach Jim Boeheim and his players all said they expect to face more matchup zone in conference play.“We’re going to be in these types of games and we’re going to see this kind of play a lot,” Boeheim said in his postgame press conference. “We just have to be prepared and be a little bit better on offense.”Next up for No. 2 Syracuse (14-0, 1-0) in its first-ever ACC slate is a trip to Blacksburg, Va., to face Virginia Tech (8-5, 1-0) on Tuesday at 9 p.m. The grind-you-down-on-defense, tie-you-up-on-offense approach that Miami threatened Syracuse with will likely be replaced by long stints of man-to-man defense and a more trigger-happy, turnover-prone offense. The Hokies are the best three-point shooting team in the conference, but average 14.3 turnovers per game compared to the 8.9 they force.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt’s been an inconsistent season so far for Virginia Tech, with losses to Seton Hall and UNC Greensboro highlighting an injury-plagued nonconference schedule. But the Hokies beat Miami in overtime and have one of the conference’s leading scorers in Jarell Eddie at 17.4 points per game, making Virginia Tech an opponent SU can’t overlook with North Carolina looming on Saturday.“What we prepare for is their best, we don’t prepare for their worst,” Boeheim said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference on Monday. “We’d love to get it, but we don’t expect to.”What the Orange might get is a depleted Virginia Tech roster. Sophomore guard Adam Smith, junior forward C.J. Barksdale and sophomore forward Marshall Wood are all questionable for the game, VT head coach James Johnson said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference on Monday.Freshman Devin Wilson is the Hokies only healthy point guard, as the team has been limited by injury more than any other ACC team this season.“I’m not sure what this team is really capable of yet because we haven’t had everybody together yet,” Johnson said on the teleconference. “And I rarely have everyone together in practice.”When VT has looked its best this season, it’s been when Eddie gets hot. He’s shot 47 percent from long range, and has scored 20-plus points in four games this season and grabbed eight-plus rebounds in five. His outside shot has been inconsistent at times, but a 14-for-19 stretch from beyond the arc in mid-November shows the damage he can do.It’s possible, though, that the Hokies follow Miami’s lead and try to slow down their offensive sets. SU players agreed the Hurricanes’ patience on offense helped keep the Orange from finding a rhythm in its half-court sets.“It is tough to have to play defense that long, especially when they get a rebound or score, period, and then we come down and take a quick shot and have to get back on defense,” forward C.J. Fair said. “We could not really get anything going like that.”Defensively, the Hokies likely won’t use the matchup zone. They’ve primarily played man-to-man defense this year, holding opponents to just 38.2 percent shooting with above average athleticism and a relatively easy schedule.But when Virginia Tech has played strong competition, its defense has floundered.Then-No. 1 Michigan State shot 50.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range in the Spartans’ 96-77 win over the Hokies on Nov. 22. Virginia Commonwealth shot 42.9 percent from the field and 48.percent from 3-point range in an 82-52 win on Dec. 21.“The youth of the team is one [thing],” Johnson said, “but when you got a lineup on the floor and the guys get used to playing with each other, guys learn where guys are going to be in certain situations, where guys are more comfortable scoring on the floor and what certain guys can do — and we just haven’t had that.”So Syracuse’s rematch with a deadly matchup zone will have to wait.The Hokies pose a different challenge for the Orange, as the SU zone will be the one closing out hard on shooters and clogging the passing lanes.If it does, it will probably translate to a less organized Virginia Tech squad. If it doesn’t, Eddie and the rest of the Hokies shooters could keep VT in the game.“We really don’t prepare for a team’s highs and lows,” Boeheim said. “We just expect a team’s going to play well against us.” Commentslast_img read more