Virginia Cavaliers vs. Syracuse Orange Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 2nd 2023

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It is hard to know what to make of Virginia.

After two uncharacteristically unfocused games in the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the Cavaliers rediscovered their signature defense in bringing down No. 14 Texas A&M on Wednesday night in the ACC-SEC Challenge.

Which Virginia team will show up Saturday when the Cavaliers (6-1) face Syracuse (5-2) in their ACC opener in Charlottesville, Va.?

Will it be the Virginia team that flatlined in a 65-41 loss to Wisconsin, getting outrebounded 48-21? Or will it be the team that flummoxed Texas A&M, forcing 16 turnovers and limiting the Aggies to 30.4 percent shooting?

“It’s so hard to score against them but when you give them the ball that many times, it’s just bad math,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said.

Reece Beekman, who paces the Cavaliers in points (11.9), assists (5.7) and steals (2.9) per game, is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Joining him as an emerging defensive force is 6-8 Ryan Dunn, who has the length, quickness and bounce to be a menace on the perimeter and a force inside.

Dunn had 12 points, five blocks and three steals against Texas A&M. Afterward, he credited the crowd.

“It’s a different type of roar,” Dunn said of playing at home against a high-quality opponent.

Another quality foe arrives Saturday in Syracuse, which is off to a solid start under first-year coach Adrian Autry. The two losses for the Orange were last week in the Maui Invitational to then-No. 7 Tennessee and No. 11 Gonzaga.

Syracuse rebounded at home with an 80-57 domination of LSU on Tuesday in the ACC/SEC Challenge as Judah Mintz scored a career-high 33 points and Chris Bell made six 3-pointers.

Bell, who finished with 20 points, fueled a game-clinching 19-3 run in the second half with four of his 3-pointers.

Mintz and Bell will face a tough challenge at Virginia, which has won nine of the last 10 meetings. Additionally, Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett is undefeated in 14 ACC openers.

“Beekman’s a gamer who makes big shots when they need them,” Autry said on Thursday. “Similar to us, their guys are young but they can defend.”

–Field Level Media

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