Virginia and Syracuse Heading in Different Directions

Rainman M.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 2:48 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 2:48 PM UTC

No. 3 Virginia (14-1) hosts Syracuse (12-4) tonight at 8 ET. The Cavs are favored by between 9 and 10 points. Can they stay successful against struggling Syracuse?

Syracuse Orange vs #3 Virginia Cavaliers

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Free NCAAB Pick: Virginia -9Best Line Offered: at Heritage

Syracuse’s anemic offense is struggling to replace three of its four departed starters.

Point guard Frank Howard is a disappointing replacement of John Gillon. The more ball-secure Gillon had replaced Howard last season, after Syracuse was 8-6 with Howard at starter. Gillon averaged 2.1 turnovers per game last season. Howard averages 4.3 this season. But Syracuse does not have a guard to replace him anymore. Howard ranks 16th in percentage of minutes played.

The Orange are even more reliant on shooting guard Tyus Battle. Battle is their leading returning scorer and leads the team with 19.5 points per game. Like Howard, his long wingspan gives him a defensive advantage. Both guards rank in the top-200 in steal percentage.

Power forward Oshae Brissett is struggling to find his stroke. His biggest contributions come from drawing fouls and converting free throws and from leading the team with 9.8 rebounds per game. Despite completing less than 46% inside the arc and less than 38% from behind the arc, Brissett and Howard both average 15 points per game.

No other Syracuse player averages more than 6 points per game. Small forward Marek Dolezaj and center Paschal Chukwu help control the defensive interior. Dolezaj ranks 154th in block percentage, Chukwu second.

Virginia is known for its top-ranked defense. But the Cavs also play great team offense, ranking 37th in offensive efficiency.

Sophomore Kyle Guy and senior transfer from Rutgers Nigel Johnson share time at point guard. Guy is a ball-secure, prolific three-point shooter who completed 49.5% of his threes last year. His current numbers are down somewhat because, like many young players, he needs to become more consistent. Guy leads the team with 14.9 points per game. Johnson’s best asset is his defense. He ranks 68th in steal percentage. He provides much-needed backcourt experience after the graduation of London Perrantes.

Sophomore Ty Jerome is another young scorer who can be a prolific three-point shooter. The shooting guard ranks 107th in three-point completion.

Small forward Devon Hall is improving from 8.4 points per game last season to 11.9 this year. He ranks 96th in three-point completion.

UVA’s big men feature budding freshman De’Andre Hunter, who has scored double digits in three of UVA’s past four games. Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt and Isaiah Wilkins rank in the top-300 in block percentage and two-point completion percentage.

The Verdict

This is a bad spot for Syracuse, which has failed to cover its last four conference road games and its last four games as an underdog. Whereas Cuse has failed to cover four of its last six, UVA is 9-3 ATS on the season.

Syracuse’s abysmal, the 236th-ranked half-court defense will struggle to score against UVA’s high-pressure defense that ranks 21st in turnover percentage and plays cohesively as a unit. Syracuse is forced to rely on Howard, who is a major reason why it ranks 217th in a percentage of turnovers allowed. Syracuse relies to a large degree on achieving blocks, steals and other turnovers in order to score. But Virginia ranks 16th in block percentage allowed, 8th in steal percentage allowed and 11th in turnover percentage allowed. Turnovers have critical betting significance for Syracuse. In four of six covers, the Orange won the turnover battle. But in six of seven non-covers, they failed to win the turnover battle on our NCAAB Picks.

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