Been There, Done That ... Hokies Will Cover Against Orange

Rainman M.

Sunday, December 31, 2017 7:43 PM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 7:43 PM UTC

Syracuse (11-2) hosts Virginia Tech (11-2) tonight at 6 PM in both team’s conference opener. The Orange are favored by 2.5 points. Virginia Tech returns all 5 starters but misses its two leading scorers, who had typically come off the bench

Free NCAAB Pick: Virginia Tech +2.5
Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Point guard Justin Robinson is building off last season when he produced double figures 20 times. He has always been effective driving to the basket, drawing fouls and making free throws. This year, he also ranks 58th in assist rate and 328th in three-point completion.

In both of VT’s losses this season, shooting guard Justin Bibbs shot well below his average from three. He ranks 183rd in three-point completion, but the versatile guard also ranks 35th in two-point scoring. Bibbs is second on the team with 15 points per game.

Small forward Ahmed Hill is first on the team with 16.3 PPG. Hill, like Bibbs, is scoring vastly more points than last season because of his versatility and reliability both inside and behind the arc. Hill ranks in the top-100 in both two-point and three-point completion.

Chris Clarke, Nickell Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear are VT’s big men who are the biggest reasons why VT ranks 11th in the proportion of free throws attempted. They are effective scorers inside. Clarke and Blackshear also average 7 rebounds per game. Alexander-Walker also ranks 161st in three-point completion.

Three of Syracuse’s top four scorers departed

Point guard Frank Howard —like the departed John Gillon— is an avid distributor who ranks 26th in assist rate. But Howard lacks Gillon’s scoring ability, particularly in terms of three-point completion, drawing fouls, and making free throws.

The problem with replacing last season’s productivity doesn’t end with Howard. Whereas VT has 5 meaningful shot-takers who average over 50% completion inside the arc, Syracuse has zero, despite having the 71st-highest proportion of points scored from two.

Returning shooting guard Tyus Battle leads the team in percentage of shots and minutes but is making a smaller proportion of baskets inside and outside the arc than last season

Syracuse’s most effective players have arguably been its lengthiest. Paschal Chukwu, Marek Dolezaj, and Matthew Moyer don’t shoot often but average over 57% from two. Chukwu also ranks 5th in block percentage and Dolezaj 194th.

The Verdict

This is a tough betting spot for Syracuse, which is 0-4 ATS in its last 4 conference openers. Virginia Tech, since 2015 under Buzz Williams, is already 2-0 ATS in the Carrier Dome. The Hokies have already succeeded against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone by
decimating Washington, which is led by Syracuse’s former assistant coach, who runs the exact same scheme.

Even though Syracuse has lengthy athletes who are effective inside, Virginia Tech boasts so many versatile scorers who also drain threes. VT ranks third in two-point completion and first in three-point completion. The latter statistic is important because Syracuse’s perimeter defense ranks 334th. The opportunities will be ample for the likes of Hill, Bibbs and Alexander-Walker.

VT has had its worse performances four our NCAAB Picks against the better-ranked half-court defenses like Saint Louis and Kentucky. But Syracuse’s is bottom-ranked. VT’s playmakers can execute its half-court offense and control tempo, as it has repeatedly done against weaker-ranked half-court defenses. VT’s fast tempo obviates its rebounding difficulties, facilitates the rhythm of its many versatile scorers and forces Syracuse, which lacks a single prolific scorer, into an unfavorable situation and a chance for us to take advantage of the NCAAB betting lines.

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