Following Virginia Tech’s third straight win they now head back home to host Syracuse this Saturday. The Hokies have only lost once in Cassell Coliseum this year and the match-up comes just 11 days after the two schools met in New York. Meanwhile, the Orange have rebounded since dropping that earlier match against Tech, defeating UVA on the road and Boston College at home.
To get a better sense of how things are going for Syracuse we spoke with Kevin Wall from Nunes Magician, SB Nation’s site on all things Syracuse. We get his thoughts on the first game, his expectations for the Orange this season, their shorter than normal rotation, Elijah Hughes, Jim Boeheim’s future, and a prediction for Saturday.
Check back in for a link to our answers to their questions once the article it published.
GC: When the Hokies visited the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago, Syracuse controlled the first half as Virginia Tech struggled against the zone. What did the Orange do in the second half that Boeheim needs to adjust ahead of Saturday?
NM: I think he needs to use Howard Washington in this game. The backup point guard didn’t see the court and I think fatigue down the stretch was an issue. In the last two games Washington has gotten some extended run in the first half which has allowed Joe Girard to get some rest and see what the defense is giving him from the bench. Girard isn’t a true point guard and sometimes falls into the trap of hunting for his own shot over running the offense. Washington is a calm player and he moves the ball around when he’s in the game as this Syracuse team can struggle when it becomes more isolation-heavy.
GC: Syracuse is currently 3-3 in the ACC, one of five teams tied for 5th place. Heading into the season what were your expectations for the team in the ACC and overall?
NM: Most Syracuse fans felt this team would be somewhere between 6th and 8th in the ACC but comfortably in the NCAA Tournament unlike the last couple of years. While the ACC being down has improved Syracuse’s standing in the league it’s disappointing to still have a lot of work to do to get into bubble discussion. This is a crucial stretch for the Orange as they face both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame on the road after having already dropped home games. It seems as though Syracuse needs to win them both to continue to make a post-season push.
GC: For the most part, Syracuse has operated with just a six-man rotation, can you talk us through why that rotation is so short and if you expect some of the other players on the bench to break into regular playing time this season?
NM: Injuries. Jalen Carey and Robert Braswell are done for the season and Brycen Goodine struggled before he broke his nose in practice. I mentioned Washington above and I think he’s the other player who should be receiving regular playing time. Freshman center Jesse Edwards will likely only see time if Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj are in foul trouble.
GC: Elijah Hughes leads the Orange in points and is second in the ACC for points per game (just ahead of Landers Nolley), do you expect the Junior to return for his final season or make the leap to the NBA?
NM: I don’t think Hughes will return for his final season. While he’s not listed on a lot of NBA mock drafts it’s hard to see him raising his stock by returning. Hughes will turn 22 this year and it would seem that the way he’s emerged as more than a shooter this season would push him to turn pro.
GC: Jim Boeheim is now in his 44th year at the school, a tremendous feat. Is the expectation that he will continue coaching while his son is playing at Syracuse and then retire?
NM: That’s the assumption but with Boeheim no one really knows what he’s going to do. What has made this even more interesting is that Syracuse has been making a big push for a couple of elite 2022 recruits which is the year after Buddy graduates. No one seems to know what that means to this assumed retirement plan. It’s almost as if Boeheim and Coach K are in some kind of standoff waiting for the other to leave.
GC: Give us your prediction for the game on Saturday?
NM: I think Virginia Tech ramps up the defensive pressure on Saturday in an attempt to keep the Syracuse three-point shooters from getting hot early and I don’t think the Hokies miss as many open looks as they did in Syracuse. Virginia Tech takes this one 71-67.
Thanks to Kevin and Nunes Magician for answering our questions.