By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Two invaders from up north have the attention of Virginia Tech sports fans — first, the sub-zero cold, and second, the Syracuse men’s basketball team.
The Orange from upper New York State, ranked second in Monday’s major college basketball polls, will blow into Cassell Coliseum this evening for the Hokies’ ACC home opener. Tipoff is at 9 p.m.
The defense for Virginia Tech (8-5, 1-0 ACC) is up for a stiff test. So far, the Hokies are holding opponents to a 38.2 percent success rate from the field.
It will be the first ACC road game for league newcomer Syracuse (14-0, 1-0), which has averaged 74.2 points per game and shot 46.7 percent from the floor.
Jarell Eddie paces Virginia Tech scorers with 17.4 points per outing, though 10 Hokies have scored 10 or more points in a game this season. Eddie’s 6.3 rebounds per game also leads the team, and the senior has recorded eight blocks in 13 games.
The Hokies lead the ACC in 3-point shooting success (42.5 percent) and average 8.69 treys per game.
In their last contest, the Hokies beat Maryland-Eastern Shore 82-66 on New Year’s Eve in Blacksburg. Eddie led all scorers with 17 points and Devin Wilson tossed in 16.
The Orange, one of six unbeaten men’s hoops programs remaining in Division I, took a low-scoring 49-44 win over Miami, rallying with a 14-4 game-ending run on Saturday. Senior C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 15 points and six rebounds.
Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis is is second in NCAA Division I in assist-turnover ratio (5.0), ninth in total steals (38) and 10th in steals per game (2.71).
As a team, Syracuse is fifth in turnover margin (6.4), ninth in steals per game (9.7) and 13th in scoring defense (59.8 ppg.).
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson announced on Monday that Adam Smith is questionable with a left calf strain and both C.J. Barksdale and Marshall Wood are questionable, suffering from the flu.
The school also announced that guard Marquis Rankin has left the team, effective immediately, but is still enrolled.
The Hokies won the only previous meeting between the two teams in Blacksburg, 87-71 in January 1978. The overall series lead belongs to Syracuse by a 4-2 edge.