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College Basketball Pick


It's been another normal season for Virginia. The Cavaliers didn't get much respect after a mediocre non-conference schedule, but yet again are in contention to win the ACC. They already have road wins against Louisville, Clemson and Notre Dame and almost left with a huge win at Villanova last weekend. As usual, this team has found ways to win through its suffocating defense.

On the other end, it hasn't been a normal season for Syracuse, but it has been somewhat similar to last season when the Orange went 19-13 and still made the NCAA tournament. It could be another similar story, although there is a glaring difference in the schedule. Before Wednesday's game at NC State, the Orange had zero true road wins, but had won all of their ACC home games. And that's why they have a chance in this game against a solid Virginia squad.

It was less than a year ago that Syracuse came back from 13 points down with only about eight minutes left to somehow take an eight-point lead en route to an Elite Eight win. The Orange went to a full-court press and the Hoos couldn't deal with it. It's likely that loss still looms large for most of these players, especially London Perrantes. The Final Four was waiting for Virginia, but an improbable come back cost them. This is a different Syracuse team, but as said above, still hasn't lost at home in conference play with wins over Florida State and Miami standing out.

The difference in that meeting last year was the guard play of Syracuse, which it doesn't have anymore as John Gillon and freshman Tyus Battle have both disappointed. This team had trouble shooting early in the season, but Andrew White has come alive and dropped 51 points total in wins over Wake and FSU. White, a Nebraska transfer, is the reason this team is still alive in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. As long as White continues that level of play that may be all this team needs to beat Virginia at the Carrier Dome. Of course, they'll still need production from Tyler Lydon, who has done it all for this team, highlighted by his six blocks against the Seminoles.

But will White and Lydon have success against this Virginia defense? They only had success in this game last year because they decided to press late in the game and that turned into 20 points in the matter of five minutes. Yet when they weren't full-court pressing, Syracuse managed just 21 points in the first half. And that's exactly what this game could depend on: If Jim Boeheim wants to press the length of the court or not and if Virginia can deal with that.

As for the Hoos, Perrantes is what makes everything work, but freshman Ty Jerome came out of nowhere to drop 15 points in the Villanova game. It's obviously hard to rely on Jerome, but the edge Virginia will have in this game is in the backcourt with Perrantes, Kyle Guy and Marial Shayok. Cuse's struggles have been on the perimeter with Gillon and Battle. That's an issue because Virginia leads the ACC in three-point percentage and has the experienced Perrantes leading the way

The Orange still haven't lost at home, but this is probably their toughest matchup yet. White and Lydon will need to hit their shots, otherwise the rest of the team won't provide enough to score against a defense like this.

Our Pick - Virginia by 10

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