Upcoming Match-ups

Virginia Was 10-1 ATS as Road Team in ACC Play Last Season; Open Season as 3.5-Point Favorite at Syracuse

John Perrotto

by John Perrotto in College Basketball

Updated Apr 6, 2020 · 12:39 PM PDT

Carrier Dome for hoops
Defending National Champion Virginia opens the season at Syracuse on Wednesday. Photo by Shoobs059 (Wiki Commons) [CCLicense]
  • Virginia is a 3.5-point favorite  over Syracuse in the season opener for both teams
  • Junior forward Elijah Hughes is Syracuse’s most experienced player
  • Virginia has covered as six-point favorites in its last two games at Syracuse

Virginia is not exactly easing into the 2019-20 schedule as it begins defense of the first national championship in school history.

The Cavaliers, ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, jump right into ACC play Wednesday night with a road game at Syracuse. Each ACC team is playing one game conference game during the first week of the season as part of its new expanded 20-game schedule.

The road was good to Virginia last season as the Cavaliers won 10 of 11 against the spread. Coach Tony Bennett’s team will hope for the same Wednesday night while becoming the first defending champ to open with a true road game since UCLA beat Purdue 73-71 to begin the 1967-68 season.

#11 Virginia vs Syracuse Odds

Team Moneyline Spread Over/Under
Virginia -168 -3.5 (-115) Over 125 (-108)
Syracuse +148 +3.5 (-105) Under 125(-112)

Odds taken Nov. 6

Counting on Mamadi Diakite

Playing the first game of the season at the Carrier Dome could prove to be difficult for Virginia, especially after losing its three best players from last season’s 35-3 team to the NBA Draft.

Senior forward Mamadi Diakite will be counted upon heavily following the departures of DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy. Diakite averaged 7.4 points a game last year – fourth on the team – along with 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots.

Diakite’s most memorable moment came in the Elite Eight when his short jumper forced overtime and Virginia went on to beat Purdue 80-75. He is a first-team selection on the ACC’s preseason all-conference team.

YouTube video

Syracuse Building Around Elijah Hughes

Syracuse lost four starters and 58 percent of its scoring from last season when it went 20-14 and fell to Baylor in the First Four. Thus, Jim Boeheim has a lot of retooling to do as he enters his 44th season as coach of the Orange.

Senior forward Elijah Hughes is the player Syracuse is building around. His 11.7 points per game average last season was second on the team, and he also pulled down 4.3 rebounds a game after transferring from East Carolina.

The Orange are deep in the backcourt and expect to run the floor and shoot more threes than the previous two seasons. An interesting freshman to watch is guard Joe Girard III, who is the all-time leading high school scorer in the state of New York with 4,763 points.

Cavaliers Comfortable at Carrier Dome

The teams met once last season and Virginia rolled to a 79-53 victory as a six-point favorite at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse led 34-32 at halftime but the Cavaliers’ stifling Pack-Line defense held the Orange to 19 points over the final 20 minutes.

However, the big three of Hunter, Jerome and Guy accounted for 62 of Virginia’s points last season. Diakite scored nine points and blocked four shots.

Hughes and Buddy Boeheim, now a sophomore guard and son of the coach, had 11 points each for Syracuse.

YouTube video

Virginia also covered a six-point favorite at Syracuse during the 2017-18 season, notching a 59-44 win.

Hard to Buck Recent History

The Carrier Dome can be an intimidating venue for many visiting teams but not Virginia. As mentioned, the Cavaliers have covered as road favorites each of the last two seasons.

They will so again Wednesday night with Diakite being a tough matchup for guard-oriented Syracuse.

Pick: Virginia Cavaliers -3.5 (-115)

Author Image