Will Boeheim be able to hold Hoos?
Throughout its magical NCAA tournament run so far, 10th-seeded Syracuse has relied on Jim Boeheim’s patented defensive philosophy. Tonight’s Elite Eight opponent, however, just keeps showing off new dimensions.
An all-ACC Easter Sunday of hoops gets started in Chicago, with a 6:09 p.m. ET tip between the Orange and Cavaliers. Oddsmakers from online sports book BetDSI currently designate No. 1 seed Virginia as a 7.5-point favorite entering the Midwest Region final.
Tony Bennett’s team eyes a third consecutive 30-win season and the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1984. Usually known for flummoxing opponents with suffocating pressure, the Hoos have actually amplified the offensive output in March Madness. With ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon leading the charge, Virginia is averaging 80.7 points and shooting 55.7 percent from the field in triumphs over Hampton, Butler and Iowa State. Four players alone reached double figures in the 84-71 win against the Cyclones in the regional semifinals.
The Orange by no means had a cakewalk on Friday, requiring a rally to upend Gonzaga by three points. Previously, though, Michael Gbinije (20 points vs. the Bulldogs) and company dispatched Middle Tennessee State and Dayton in authoritative fashion. With Boeheim pulling the strings from the sideline, Syracuse has allowed a total of 161 points during the Big Dance.
UVa prevailed in the last meeting between the two schools on Jan. 24. Bennett devised specific ways to attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone, and Brogdon hit a flurry of 3-pointers to salt away a 73-65 win. With senior forward Anthony Gill raising his performance in recent weeks and joining the Cavaliers’ resident gunner in a sidekick capacity, it’s hard to imagine a different result this time around.
As always, however, Boeheim just understands the right buttons to press at this juncture. If he gets Gbinije and 6-foot-9 freshman Tyler Lydon humming in unison, all bets are off. We simply can’t ignore the fact that the Hoos have won all three of their tourney contests by at least points and have yet to trail in a second half.
SUNDAY NCAA FREE PICK: SYRACUSE/VIRGINIA OVER 124.5 POINTS