Tip-off from Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg is set for a little past 9 PM (ET); ESPN3 will carry the action.
Syracuse started the NCAA basketball betting proceedings as 12 point chalk, and that spread hasn't budged following overnight trading. If you want to play the total in the contest, you'll have to check back later since oddsmakers continue to delay releasing that number.
It's the first meeting between the schools as conference foes, and first collision in a little more than two years. The Orange and Hokies squared off in the Nov. 2011 NIT Season Tip-Off, and Syracuse used a big second half to beat Va Tech, 69-58. The Orange had just enough to cover a closing 10-point spread in that matchup, and are 4-2 all-time vs. the Hokies.
Late Rally Keeps Orange Unbeaten
Syracuse (14-0 straight up, 6-4 against the spread) is firmly cemented in the No. 2 spot of both of the latest polls behind Arizona, though the Orange looked like anything but a top-ranked team last Saturday, at least for the first 30 minutes or so vs. Miami. The Hurricanes frustrated Syracuse shooters from the outside and got physical inside the paint in a slow, throwback game at the Carrier Dome, and held a 6-point lead midway through the second half despite entering the game as 13 point underdogs.
But Miami couldn't seal the deal and a late push by the Orange helped them to a 49-44 decision in their ACC debut played in front of nearly 22,000 fans. Syracuse shot just 36.2% (17-of-47) on the afternoon, its worst performance since a narrow 56-50 victory over St. Francis in an unlined affair back in November.
CJ Fair scored nearly a third of Syracuse's 49 points, but it was outside shooting that almost did the Orange in. Sophomore Trevor Cooney took 12 shots, all from beyond the arc, and managed to sink but two, and Boeheim was forced to keep his starting five on the floor much of the contest to ward off a determined Hurricanes squad.
Only seven players found their way to the court vs. Miami in Boeheim's rotation, and the bench could be a bit short Tuesday with big forward DaJuan Coleman questionable due to a knee injury.
Hokies Continue Long Homestand Looking For 2nd ACC Dubya
James Johnson's bench is also expected to be thin for Tuesday's tussle as three of the top 6 scorers for Virginia Tech (8-5 SU, 5-3 ATS) are questionable. The Hokies' website reported Adam Smith (13.1 ppg) could miss his third straight game due to a strained calf, while CJ Barksdale (8.9 ppg) and Marshall Wood (6.7 ppg) are suffering from the flu. In addition to their combined 28.7 PPG, that trio also accounts for about a third of Va Tech's rebounding.
The Hokies stopped a 2-game slide on New Year's Eve with an 82-66 victory vs. Maryland-East Shore. Virginia Tech used a dominating first half performance in that game to build an insurmountable lead, and bounced back from a disappointing home loss to UNC-Greensboro just three days earlier.
Tuesday marks the third contest of a 5-game homestand for the Hokies who are just 1-3 away from Blacksburg. The one road victory did come at Miami about a month ago when Virginia Tech rallied from a 13-point hole to force overtime, ultimately topping the Hurricanes by a 61-60 count.
The absence of all three players for the Hokies has me thinking Syracuse should be able to dominate inside, and that should set up more points in transition for Boeheim's bunch. I'm adding the Orange to my Tuesday NCAA basketball picks.
My pick: Syracuse -12