Virginia-Syracuse Preview

The last time it faced Syracuse, surprising Virginia stormed to its second ACC regular-season crown with a one-sided victory over the then fourth-ranked Orange.

While they haven't snuck up on as many teams this season, the No. 2 Cavaliers are hoping to repeat history as they look to lock up the program's best record through 29 games Monday night at the Carrier Dome.

Malcolm Brogdon finished with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead Virginia to a 75-56 home win over Syracuse last March 1 that clinched the school's first outright league crown since the 1981-82 season.

Current owners of a two-game lead with two remaining, the Cavs can claim their first back-to-back outright conference titles with another win over the Orange. They fell 73-70 in their only trip to Syracuse in November 2008.

Virginia, which has won 11 straight on the road by an average of 14.0 points, is also vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament after winning eight in a row since a 69-63 home loss to No. 4 Duke on Jan. 31.

The Cavs (27-1, 15-1) close with a visit to No. 17 Louisville on Saturday.

"(It's) going to be a crazy finish," senior forward Dario Atkins told the school's official website. "Great teams, great coaches, great programs. Top teams. Elite teams. I think that will help us going into postseason, playing teams like that."

Virginia has had to overcome adversity to move a win away from surpassing the '81-82 team for the best start in school history.

Justin Anderson (13.4 points per game) went down for at least four weeks with a broken finger Feb. 7, while London Perrantes returned in Saturday's 69-57 home win over Virginia Tech after missing one game due to a broken nose and mild concussion.

Brogdon stepped up with 19 points and eight boards against the Hokies, while Atkins and Anthony Gill scored 16 apiece.

Since averaging 55.2 points on 40.3 percent shooting over a five-game stretch that began when Anderson was hurt versus Louisville, Virginia has shown improvement by scoring 69.5 per game while shooting 50.5 percent over its last two.

The Cavs also have the nation's best defense to rely. Virginia gives up an average of 50.1 points on 35.2 percent shooting, a stat that doesn't bode well for the Orange (18-11, 9-7) as they look to recover from their worst shooting effort of the season.

Syracuse shot 30.6 percent and went 3 for 20 from 3-point range in Saturday's 73-54 loss at Duke. Senior Rakeem Christmas, averaging a team-high 17.8 points, was held to 11 and matched a season low with just six shot attempts.

The Orange, who will miss out on the postseason after a self-imposed ban for NCAA violations, have dropped three of five at home and alternated wins and losses over their last nine overall.

They'll need a win over Virginia and at North Carolina State to increase Jim Boeheim's record for 20-win seasons to 37.

"The season ends every year, and it's never pretty - except for one time," said Boeheim, referring to his 2003 national championship. "We have two really tough games and have the second-best team in the country to play Monday night."

Syracuse has won four of five at home versus ranked opponents, while Virginia has won 27 in a row against unranked foes.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.