Hokies return home on Tuesday to try to snap their two game losing streak when they take on the Syracuse Orange.
The Virginia Tech Hokies return home to Cassell Coliseum for the first time since their New Year’s Eve upset of fifth-ranked Duke. Much has changed since the conclusion of that game, as the Hokies moved into the first week of the New Year ranked 21st in the country, which is the first time that Virginia Tech has graced the polls since 2010.
The fall from grace was swift in the first week of being ranked in nearly seven years, as the Hokies traveled on the road twice, only to get blown out by NC State 104-78, as well as lose handily to then-ranked number 12 Florida State, 93-78.
The Hokies are undoubtedly reeling, and likely need to take two out of three on their current homestand to put themselves back firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture. Buzz Williams’ squad will look to snap the two-game slide and get things back on track on Tuesday night against the Syracuse Orange.
Syracuse has been up-and-down throughout their 10-6 start to the season, which included an embarrassing loss to Boston College to open conference play. Since then though, the Orange have won two straight games, holding serve at home against Miami and Pittsburgh entering play against the Hokies.
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The usual cast of characters litters the Syracuse roster, a group that has given the Hokies fits in recent years. Tyler Roberson, DaJuan Coleman, and Tyler Lydon are all expected to play a major role against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night, but no role may be bigger offensively than the one assumed by Andrew White III. The senior transfer from Nebraska has carved out a sizable role for Jim Boeheim’s squad, leading the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game on 43% shooting from the floor.
He will be the primary player for the Hokies to be concerned about when they go up against the Syracuse offense, but big man Tyler Lydon is poised to have a big game as well against an undersized Hokies frontcourt. The sophomore forward is averaging 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season, and will have to be accounted for at all times underneath, as the Hokies look to tighten their post defense that has struggled the last couple of times out.
Offensively, the Hokies will look to play with a more controlled pace against the Orange, which is something that the team has struggled with of late. The Hokies have gone at a breakneck pace and have turned it over 36 times over the last two games, which is alarming to say the least. The Hokies missed the presence of senior guard Seth Allen this past Saturday against Florida State, as he was dealing with a concussion suffered in the NC State loss earlier last week. At this juncture, it appears that Allen and his 10.7 points per game will be a game-time decision for Tuesday night.
Regardless of whether or not Allen is able to go, the Virginia Tech offense will need to continue its balanced scoring among Zach LeDay (16.3 ppg.), Ahmed Hill (15.3 ppg.), and Chris Clarke (12.0 ppg.), while most importantly, limiting the turnovers and second chance points for the Orange and Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 match-up zone defense that has given opponents fits for the better part of the last 30 years.
Justin Robinson and Seth Allen, if he plays, will be crucial to the success of the Hokies, as they will try to penetrate the spaces within the Syracuse zone to create open shots for their teammates. The assist-to-turnover ration may be the difference between winning this tough conference game on Tuesday night and losing it, and will be the stat to watch throughout the game.
Tip-off between the Hokies and Syracuse is slated for Tuesday night at 7 PM ET and will be televised on ESPNU.