Rushed Reactions: #11 Syracuse 57, #6 TCU 52

Posted by Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) on March 17th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) is in Detroit this weekend. 

Three Key Takeaways.

Syracuse’s defense was all over TCU on Friday night. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

  1. TCU’s super-efficient offense struggled against the Syracuse zone. TCU was hands-down the most efficient offense in the Big 12 this season, ranking 7th nationally in adjusted efficiency and shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc. But it struggled mightily against Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone. The Horned Frogs shot just 3-of-17 from behind the arc, the Orange defense using its size — Syracuse is the tallest team in college basketball — and length to prevent good looks. TCU also turned the ball over at an uncharacteristically high rate, which may have been the difference (extra possessions) considering both teams shot nearly identical from the field and the free throw line. “This was just a defensive game, and we didn’t give them good looks from the three-point line,” Syracuse Jim Boeheim said afterwards.
  2. Marek Dolezaj’s career night couldn’t have come at a better time. Slovakian freshman Marek Dolezaj entered Friday averaging 5.2 PPG. He scored 17 points on Friday night, including 11 of his team’s first 23 points. He was so on point, in fact, that even his sole three-point attempt — just his ninth of the season (2-of-9 3PT) — went in, helping Syracuse jump out to an early lead. For an offense that can at times look inept, Dolezaj’s contributions (he scored 20 points against Wake Forest on March 6) could be the spark Syracuse needs for another March run.
  3. Jim Boeheim out-performing expectations in March once again. Two years ago, Syracuse was a double-digit seed and one of the last teams to sneak into the Dance. Sound familiar? That team wound up making a completely unexpected Final Four run, the fifth appearance of Boeheim’s career. This year’s team — tall, methodical, defensive-minded — has plenty of similarities, if not a player as dynamic as Michael Gbinije. With two NCAA Tournament wins now under its belt, Boeheim is once again making lemonade out very bubbly lemons.

Star of the Game. Marek Dolezaj, Syracuse. The 6-9 Slovakian couldn’t miss on Friday, knocking down every type of shot you can imagine on his way to 17 points. Had Dolezaj not fouled out midway through the second half, he may have posted a career high. For Syracuse to upset Michigan State on Sunday, it’s going to need role players like Dolezaj to step up in similar fashion.

Quotable.

  • “You can’t play better than that as a freshman.” – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim on Dolezaj’s outstanding offensive performance.
  • “This tournament, it just breaks your heart. And the better you are, the more it breaks your heart.” – Boeheim’s take on UMBC’s shocking upset over Virginia.
  • “That’s hard to do, and they did it.” – TCU heach coach Jamie Dixon on his key seniors who helped transform the program. Friday marked the Horned Frogs’ first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.

Sights and Sounds. TCU-Syracuse may have been the live action in Little Caesars Arena, but the fans — many of whom had no vested interested in either team — were more enthralled with the developing upset in Charlotte. During each timeout, they would feature the UMBC-Virginia game on the jumbotron, leading to a chorus of boos when the live game resumed. It was the type of surreal, “where were you when?” experience that no one will soon forget.

What’s Next. The Orange will take on #3 Michigan State. Last time these teams met in the NCAA Tournament, the #1 Spartans beat Syracuse by 17 points in the 2000 Midwest Regional semifinal.

Tommy Lemoine (249 Posts)


Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *