ESPN Big Monday Preview and Pick
Virginia has landed in middle-New York and are preparing for the first of two games to close the 2018-19 ACC regular season campaign. The Cavaliers face the task of squaring up a good Syracuse squad at the Carrier Dome tonight. This ACC event is the first of two ESPN Big Monday tilts and is schedule to tip at 7:00 p.m. ET. ESPN Big Monday Preview and Pick: Cavs -6 over Orange.
All things being equal the most qualified and equipped roster in college basketball to win six straight Big Dance events is the Virginia Cavaliers. The second-ranked Virginia squad is a difficult matchup for the Orange due to multiple variables. Most notable is their ability to defend and the absolute necessity for their opponents to run them off the three-point line with tight perimeter defensive pressure.
Syracuse overwhelmed Danny Manning’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday behind guard Tyus Battle’s 21-points.
Virginia positioned themselves perfectly for the final week of league play by spreading their personnel minutes in a rout of last place Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Cavs took a 39-19 lead into half time and never looked back. Head coach Tony Bennett brings his stellar first rotation into Syracuse with rested legs just 48 hours later after Saturday’s victory 73-49 victory over the Panthers.
Bennett’s three top guards, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter, all received less than 30 minutes of court time on Saturday. In addition the Cavs gave all 13 players minutes in the win. Furthermore Pitt was the 10th team that the Cavaliers have held below 50 points this season.
Battle, who is the team’s leading scorer (17.7 ppg), won’t shoot 9-of-13 from the field against the Cavs as he did against Wake Forest. The Orange’s second leading scorer, Elijah Hughes (13.9), was also efficient vs Wake connecting on 8-of-12 from the field. Cuse had one of their better shooting games of the season hitting 54.4 percent from the floor. The Orange outscored the Demon Deacons 44-10 in the paint.
Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense held the frontcourt-heavy scoring of Wake scoreless for over 13 minutes in the second half of their victory.
Despite their relatively easy victory against the Deacons on Saturday the Orange connected on just 4-of-19 from 3-point range on Saturday.
Without a healthy Zion Williamson this Virginia squad trumps the Duke Blue Devils as the best of the ACC. This experienced and savvy group of Cavaliers are playing their best basketball of the season and are as balanced, versatile and capable as any team in the country to win six straight in tournament play. The return of a healthy Ty Jerome has zip locked the Cavaliers position as the No. 1 team in the country in my power rankings.
Virginia is laser focused defensively. They have been the best in all of college hoops since their victory over the Tar Heels in North Carolina. Bennett’s crew heads into the Carrier Dome tonight on a five-game run of allowing less than one point per possession.