Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse OrangePosted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013
After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose
Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.
Key Stat: One of the major advantages of the Syracuse zone is its ability to turn effective defense into quick, fast-break offense. This Syracuse team struggles in the half-court, but it is very good at closing out possessions on defense which leads to important easy looks on the other end. The Orange are 18th nationally in total rebounds per game, fifth in total steals, and third in total blocks.
Best-Case Scenario: Syracuse rebounds from an ugly second half in the Big East championship loss to Louisville and regains the momentum it built heading into that game. After cruising through the San Jose pod, a partisan Orange crowd in Washington wills the team to an upset victory over Indiana and Syracuse’s zone causes issues for Miami in the next game, sending the program to its fifth Final Four and the first for Syracuse since its sole national championship 10 years ago.
Worst-Case Scenario: The Orange struggle to contain Will Cherry and Montana, but are able to sneak by the Grizzlies with a narrow win. However, things don’t work out so well when Syracuse stares down UNLV on Saturday. Runnin’ Rebels big man Anthony Bennett bullies Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita on the inside of the zone, opening things up for the streaky UNLV shooters to knock down some open shots. Syracuse goes into a hole offensively, and UNLV wins the game by double digits.