The Syracuse University men's basketball program will visit a familiar neutral-site location Wednesday night as the Orange face Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the NIT Tipoff Tournament held at Madison Square Garden (9:30 p.m. on ESPN2). Syracuse (4-0), ranked No. 5 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, and Virginia Tech (3-0) will try to advance to Friday's final, which will also feature the winner of Oklahoma State University vs. Stanford University (7 p.m. on ESPN2).
Last week, Syracuse advanced to the semifinal round by defeating Manhattan University, 92-56, and the University at Albany, 98-74, respectively. Meanwhile, the Hokies beat Monmouth University, 91-46, and Florida International University, 78-63, in consecutive games to earn their right to play at MSG where it is 14-5 overall.
Syracuse enters the contest amidst controversy surrounding assistant coach Bernie Fine, who was placed on administrative leave last Thursday after Syracuse police announced that he was under investigation for sexual abuse of two former ball boys. Fine denied these allegations, while his good friend, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, has strongly supported him through newspaper and television interviews.
Despite the media swarm around the program, the Orange were able to rout Colgate University, 92-47, Saturday afternoon in a non-conference game at the Carrier Dome. Sophomore guard, Dion Waiters, who is currently SU's leading scorer (13.8 point per game), netted a team-best 16 points off the bench, while junior forward James Southerland, who also is averaging 13.8 ppg, added 14 points.
"These four games have been good," said Boeheim after Saturday's victory. "We have a lot of guys in there to get them used to what this is all about. Hopefully we’re pretty well prepared going to New York."
Last Tuesday, senior guard Dorenzo Hudson netted a game-best 31 points against FIU to help Virginia Tech reach the semifinals of the NIT Tipoff Tournament. Hudson (6-foot-5, 220-pounds), who missed most of last season with a foot injury and was given a medical red shirt, is pacing the Hokies in scoring (19.2 ppg), while backcourt mate, Erik Green (6-4, 185) is also averaging double figures (11.2 ppg). Freshmen forward Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 192) is averaging a squad-best 11.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Virginia Tech is led by head coach Seth Greenberg who in nine seasons at Blackburg, VA has compiled a 157-106 record. In the preseason media polls, Virginia Tech was predicted to finish sixth in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
Syracuse enters the contest as 10.5-point favorites.