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Jesse Edwards-less Syracuse visits Virginia Tech

Jesse Edwards dunks during Syracuse’s win over Louisville on February 5.
Cuse.com
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Jesse Edwards dunks during Syracuse’s win over Louisville on February 5.

Syracuse looks for its fifth straight win when it travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech Saturday. WAER’s Francesco Simone explains why it’s an even matchup and the effect that Jesse Edwards’ absence will have on the Orange.

Syracuse’s next leg of its late season push to save what a couple of weeks ago looked like a lost season takes Jim Boeheim and company to Blacksburg for a matchup with Virginia Tech.

The Orange will have to navigate their contest against the Hokies and every other game they play the rest of the season without Jesse Edwards. The junior fractured his wrist in Tuesday’s matchup against Boston College. SU loses a ton of production as a result. Edwards went from Marek Dolezaj’s rarely-used backup to ACC Most Improved Player candidate this season. The Dutchman averaged 12 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks (second best in the ACC) per game.

Coach Boeheim has a couple of avenues he can take to replace his injured big man. One is to start backup Frank Anselem, who is averaging two points and three rebounds in 10 minutes per game. The other is to move one of his forwards, Jimmy Boeheim or Cole Swider, to center and either insert Benny Williams at the vacated forward spot or shift Buddy Boeheim up from shooting guard and play with a backcourt of Joe Girard and Symir Torrence. Syracuse also has John Bol Ajak and Bourama Sidibe as two other scholarship centers, although neither has seen much time this season, combining to play in just 11 games this year.

Benny Williams takes a shot against Louisville in the Dome.
Cuse.com
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Benny Williams takes a shot against Louisville in the Dome.

The loss of Edwards is a major blow for SU, but there is still a game to be played, and one that pits two teams with plenty of similarities. Both the Orange and Hokies come into this matchup riding four game win streaks which came off the backs of three game losing streaks. SU and VT both rank in the top 20 in the country according to KenPom’s offensive efficiency rating (Syracuse is 13th, Virginia Tech is 18th). Also, they each have eight-man rotations with all five starters averaging over 27 minutes per game.

Syracuse and Virginia Tech have the same biggest strength. SU lives and dies by the three. The Orange shoot 38% from beyond the arc, the third best mark in the ACC. Meanwhile, VT makes 42% of its threes, top in the conference and second-best in the entire country. The Hokies are led by Hunter Cattoor who makes 47% of his long-range attempts, which ranks second in the ACC, trailing only Duke’s A.J. Griffin, a potential lottery pick. Virginia Tech has four other rotation members-Justyn Mutts, Nahiem Alleyne, Storm Murphy, and Darius Maddox-that shoot over 38% from three.

Buddy Boeheim takes a three against Boston College on February 8.
Cuse.com
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Buddy Boeheim takes a three against Boston College on February 8.

Where these teams differ is on the defensive end. The Hokies give up just 62 points per game, which ranks second in the ACC. The Orange, meanwhile, allow 74 per game, second worst in the conference. KenPom tells a bit of a different story, however. VT sits 110th in defensive efficiency. While that isn’t quite as impressive as Virginia Tech’s ACC standing, it’s still miles ahead of 222nd ranked SU.

WAER’s coverage of Syracuse’s quest for its fifth straight wins begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with GZA Countdown to Tipoff. Game time between the Orange and Hokies from Blacksburg is set for six o’clock.