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The Duke vs. Syracuse games may have gotten more attention, but this game is probably the biggest of the ACC season. Not only will it likely decide the regular season winner in the ACC, but also have an effect on NCAA tourney seedings.
Syracuse still has a chance of getting a No. 1 seed with two losses on the year, but a loss here could end those hopes unless they went on to win the ACC tournament. The Orange have not played great lately, losing two of their last five games with those other three games being won by a total of five points. Winning close games is a product of the way they play, but that doesn't always mean a good thing.
Since losing by four points at Duke, Virginia has cruised in the ACC winning 12 straight games. While the Cavaliers have some close calls on the road, most of their home wins have been by double digits. In fact, their only home win in conference play not by double figures was the Maryland game in which they won by eight. Granted, they didn't have to play the Blue Devils at home.
Nevertheless, this is the only time these teams play each other during the regular season. Both teams are led by some of the best defenses in the country and rather low-scoring offenses.
Starting with the Orange, while they lack depth, they have a better overall offense with four guys scoring at least 12 points per game. C.J. Fair is the biggest problem for opposing defenses because he can score in an array of ways. Whether it's his jumper, in the post or on the offensive glass, Fair can do it all. He'll likely draw a lengthy defender in either Akil Mitchell or Anthony Gill while Mike Tobey handles Rakeem Christmas.
Due to Syracuse's size, Virginia may have to change their lineup a bit because they still have to worry about Jerami Grant who can also beat you down low. On the outside, Trevor Cooney is a knockdown shooter, but hasn't found his shot in recent games, shooting under 40 percent in six straight outings. That's one of the main reasons for the Orange's struggle because Cooney is their only real three-point threat. Tyler Ennis runs the show and does incredible things for the team as a freshman, including game-winning shots.
The Cavs are led mostly by a slew of sizable guards that can all shoot fairly well which is a must against the Syracuse zone. While only two players average more than nine points per game, their top four guards can all hit the three-ball. Malcolm Brogdon is their best scorer, but senior Joe Harris may be more important in this game due to his knockdown three-pointer. Justin Anderson and London Perrantes can also hit shots if needed.
Virginia has a deeper bunch, but that really shouldn't play a role in this game as both teams like to slow it down on both ends of the floor. Expect a tough defensive battle with the Cavaliers having the edge on their home court.
Virginia is aiming to secure the ACC title which would be huge for the school, while Syracuse is trying not to fall apart with three losses in four games.
Predicted Score - Virginia 58 Syracuse 53
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