The Syracuse Orange begin their quest to prove everyone wrong and return to the Final Four for the first time in a decade when they take on the Montana Grizzlies on Friday. Let's get all the particulars out of the way...
Date: Thursday, March 21st
Time: 10:00 p.m. (ish) EST
Location: HP Pavillion, San Jose, CA
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Marty Snider
Records: Syracuse 26-9, Montana (25-6)
Seeds: Syracuse (4), Montana (13)
Odds: Syracuse -14
Montana's Last Game: Kareem Jamar capped his back-to-back conference MVP career by leading the Grizz to the Big Sky Conference championship with a 67-64 victory over Weber State.
Series: This is the first time SU has played Montana.
Montana This Year: The Grizz hit a rough patch in late-November/early-December, losing to BYU, San Francisco and South Dakota State. With a 4-4 record, the team needed to find stability. They found it in 14-game winning streak as they cruised through Big Sky play (19-1) as well as the tournament to get here. They don't have any marquee wins really and they've lost to every NCAA Tournament team they've played. However, they've also won 20 of their last 22 so this isn't a team accustom to losing. That they've been doing it without leading scorer Mathias Ward (out with foot injury) makes it even more impressive.
Montana Last Year: A 13-seed in Syracuse's bracket last year as well, the 25-6 Grizz met eventual SU opponent Wisconsin in the second round, losing soundly 73-49.
Montana Coach: Wayne Tinkle (7th year) - Tinkle's doing solid work up in Missoula. When he took over, the team went 17-15. He's gotten them into 20-win territory for four-consecutive seasons and this will be the team's third NCAA Tourney appearance in four years. He played for Montana in the 80's, was a Montana assistant for five years before taking over and his wife is a former UM basketball player. He's practically Mr. Montana Basketball.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds Of Timelords": Picking up the slack for Ward has been Jamar (14.5 PPG) and Will Cherry (13.9 PPG). The team lives and dies with this duo (not to mention at the free-throw line, where they score 23% of their points).
Best Tourney Moment: A 12-seed, the Grizzlies upset 5-seed Nevada in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Best Tourney Finish: 1975, when they won their first game in the then-32 team tournament, before losing in the round of 16. They actually played "regional 3rd place games" back then and Montana lost that game as well.
Notable Alumni: NFL coach Marty Mornhinweg, Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament, "That Guy" actor J.K. Simmons
Montana Blog: Big Sky Bball,
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