The Confidential has devoted a lot of time and space to the Syracuse Orange. Once 25-0 and ranked #1, this made sense. But today’s matchup between the Virginia Cavaliers and Syracuse left no doubt which team deserves the regular season crown. It’s Virginia… who rolled over Syracuse, 75-56, on the way to a 16-1 regular season and championship.
Virginia entered its Senior Day game ranked #1 in the ACC, while Syracuse outranked them in the polls–#4 to #12. This was deserved, as Syracuse had an undefeated nonconference scheduled and started 10-0 in conference play.
In contrast, on January 13, Virginia was 12-5, with losses to Duke, Green Bay, Wisconsin, VCU, and Tennessee (by 35). Don’t look now, but Duke in Cameron is not a bad loss… Wisconsin is 23-5… VCU is 21-7…. and Green Bay is 24-5. Only the Tennessee loss involved a team with less than 20 wins at present, and the Volunteers are 18-11 with two winnable regular season games left. In any event, since that Duke loss, Virginia has won 13 straight games–all in conference play.
And today became that 13 straight win. Although Syracuse led at the half 28-27, and the game was tied 40-40, Virginia outscored Syracuse down the stretch 35-16. The result was a combination of solid defense and incredible three-point shooting. And this was after pounding Syracuse in the paint in the first half. Simply put, Virginia can do it all.
Still do not believe in Virginia? Jim Boeheim noted this at his post-game press conference: “I’ve thought for at least a couple weeks that (Virginia) has been by far the best team (in the ACC).” Needless to say, the game did not do anything to change Boeheim’s opinion on Virginia.
Unfortunately for basketball fans, Syracuse was forced to essentially play without Jerami Grant, one of its best players. Grant is a difference-maker offensively and defensively, and his absence was felt on both sides of the court. Virginia outrebounded Syracuse 39-29. Syracuse also struggled offensively, launching an uncharacteristically high 22 three-pointers–making a scant 23%. The resort to outside shooting was, in part, based on the absence of Grant, Syracuse’s other midrange offensive threat. Virginia made 50% of its three-pointers and field goals.
But there are no excuses to be had in a 19-point win. Not the refs. Not the injuries. Nothing.
All ACC fans should admire the job that Tony Bennett has done in Charlottesville, not only overcoming Duke and North Carolina–but also putting his team past newcomer Syracuse. Virginia is not made up of blue chip players–in fact, the Confidential will purposefully not mention any of Virginia’s players individually. It takes a team effort to win 16 ACC games and a regular season championship. It takes a team effort to go from 12-5 to 25-5. The better team won today, en route to its first ACC title since the Ralph Sampson era.
Congratulations to the 2013-2014 ACC Regular Season champions: the Virginia Cavaliers.