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Syracuse-Virginia Preview

On Saturday, fourth-ranked Syracuse will face 12th-ranked Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va. This will be the last team that the Orange will have to face that is currently ranked in the Associated Press-AP Top 25 Poll, prior to the Atlantic Coast Conference, ACC, Tournament, according to ESPN.com.

The Orange (26-2 Overall, 13-2 ACC)  are in the midst of their best season since the 2011-2012 season, according to sports-reference.com.

Succeeding the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament, the Orange’s former Conference, the Orange had a 31-2 record. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee rewarded them with a number one seed in the East Region, according to SportsIllustrated.com.

The Orange won three games in the Tournament before falling to second-seeded Ohio State in the Elite Eight, 77-70, according to SportsIllustrated.com. The Orange finished that season with a 34-3 record.

This season, the Orange have had tremendous success.

They began the season winning their first 25 games of the season. Succeeding their 26th victory of the season, a 56-55 victory against North Carolina State, they lost their next two games.

The Orange won the last game they played on Monday against Maryland. Tyler Ennis, the Orange’s freshman point guard, scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists to lead his team to a 57-55 victory.

The Orange’s opponent on Saturday has also been having a great season. The Cavaliers (23-5 Overall, 14-1 ACC) are in the midst of their best season since the 1982-1983 season, according to sports-reference.com.

Succeeding the 1983 ACC Tournament, the Cavaliers had a 26-3 record. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee rewarded them with a number one seed in the West Region, according to CBSSports.com.

The Cavaliers, who received a first round bye, won two games in the Tournament before falling to the sixth-seeded Wolfpack in the Sweet 16, according to SportsIllustrated.com. The Cavaliers finished that season with a 28-4 record.

They are achieving tremendous success as well this season. On Jan. 13, then 23rd-ranked Duke defeated the then unranked Cavaliers 69-65 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C, according to ESPN.com.

That loss dropped the Cavaliers to a 12-5 Overall Record and a 3-1 ACC Record. Since then, they have won their last 11 games.

This has helped them risen from being unranked to 11th in Monday’s AP Top 25 Poll. Their last game was against unranked Notre Dame on Saturday.

The then 14th-ranked Cavaliers, led by 15 points apiece from Sophomore forward Anthony Gill and Senior forward Akil Mitchell, defeated the Fighting Irish 70-49, according to ESPN.com. This victory, along with a 57-53 victory against unranked Virginia Tech, propelled the Cavaliers three spots in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.

The 11th-ranked Cavaliers have one game to play before they face the fourth-ranked Orange on Saturday. On Wednesday, the 11th-ranked Cavaliers will face unranked Miami (FL) at John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va, according to ESPN.com.

Three keys are listed below, among numerous keys to the game, that will help to determine the eventual victor in Saturday’s game between the fourth-ranked Orange and the 11th-ranked Cavaliers.

1. Virginia’s Field Goal Percentage: Prior to Monday’s game, Syracuse had allowed their opponents to shoot 40.8-percent from the field, which ranked 61st among Division I teams, according to NCAA.com. In the Orange’s two losses, to unranked Boston College and then fifth-ranked Duke, they allowed the Eagles and Blue Devils to shoot better than 40.8-percent from the field.

In the Eagles’ 62-59 Overtime victory against the then top ranked Orange on Wednesday, they made 21 of 49 field goal attempts. This equated to the Eagles ending the game with a 42.9 field goal percentage, according to ESPN.com.

This immensely contributed to the Eagles’ eventual victory. The Blue Devils experienced similar success shooting from the field against the Orange.

In the Blue Devils’ 66-60 victory against the then top ranked Orange on Saturday, they made 23 of 38 field goal attempts. This equated to the Blue Devils finishing the game with a 47.9 field goal percentage, according to ESPN.com.

This also immensely contributed to the Blue Devils’ eventual victory.

2. Syracuse’s Field Goal Percentage: This season, Virginia has allowed their opponents to shoot 38.6-percent from the field, which ranks ninth among Division I teams, according to NCAA.com. In the Cavaliers’ five losses, including to then eighth-ranked Wisconsin, to then 14th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth University-VCU and then 23rd-ranked Duke, they allowed those five teams to shoot better than their season average from the field.

This includes two losses against unranked teams.

In unranked Green Bay’s 75-72 victory against the then unranked Cavaliers on Dec. 7, they made 26 of 51 field goal attempts. This equated to the Pheonix ending the game with a 51.0 field goal percentage, according to ESPN.com.

This immensely contributed to the Pheonix’s eventual victory. Unranked Tennessee experience similar success shooting from the field against the Cavaliers.

In the Volunteers’ 87-52 victory against the then unranked Cavaliers on Dec. 30, they made 27 of 54 field goal attempts. This equated to the Volunteers finishing the game with a 50.0 field goal percentage, according to ESPN.com.

3. Free Throws: Games between ranked teams are typically close games. This usually means that every offensive possession is critical; especially in regards to free throw attempt.

Syracuse and Virginia have both struggled from the free throw line this season.

Prior to Monday’s game, the Orange had only made 70.5-percent from the free throw line, which ranked 151st among Division I teams, according to NCAA.com. Of the nine players on the Orange to have played in at least 10 games this season, only five of them have made at least 70 percent of their free throws, according to ESPN.com.

The Orange’s best free throw shooter is Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney at 86.8-percent in 28 games played. Their worst free throw shooter that has played in double digit games is Sophomore center DaJuan Coleman at 50.0-percent in 13 games played, according to ESPN.com.

The Cavaliers have been much worse from the free throw line this season.

This season, the Cavaliers have only made 65.3-percent from the free throw line, which ranks 302nd among Division I teams, according to NCAA.com. Of the 14 players on the Cavaliers to have played in at least 10 games, only three of them have made at least 70 percent of their free throws, according to ESPN.com.

The Cavaliers’ best free throw shooter is Sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon at 88.8-percent in 28 games played. They have three players listed on ESPN.com with a 0.0 free throw percentage this season.

Only one of them has attempted free throws this season. Their worst free throw shooter that has played in double digit games, and attempted only one free throw, this season is Junior guard Rob Vozenilek.

This game between the Orange and Cavaliers is primarily for positioning in the AP Top 25 Poll. It is also for positioning in the ACC Tournament next month.

The Cavaliers lead the Orange by one game in the ACC standings with three Conference games remaining. The four teams with the best ACC records will get a two-round bye in the Conference Tournament, according to TheACC.com.

The team with the best Conference record would get the top seed in the Conference Tournament. They would also play the eighth or ninth-seeded team, the victor of that matchup, on March 14th, according to TheACC.com.

The team with the second-best Conference record would get the second-seed in the Conference Tournament. They would also play the winner of the seventh-seeded team against the 10th or 15th-seeded team on March 14th, according to TheACC.com.

A Cavaliers’ victory on Saturday would nearly assure them the ACC Regular Season Title and the top seed in the Conference Tournament. If the Orange can win on Saturday, then they have a greater opportunity to win the Conference’s Regular Season Title and get the top seed in the Conference Tournament.

Who will win Saturday's game between #4 Syracuse and #12 Virginia?

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