The 3-seed Syracuse Orange attempt to return to the Sweet Sixteen for the third-straight year. Standing in their way is the 11-seed Dayton Flyers. Can the Orange overcome the underdog or will they succumb to the expectations of those who think they've run out of gas?
Let's find out what the TNIAAM flock thinks...
Syracuse won't score as easily against Dayton as it did against Western Michigan. Also, the Flyers have won 11 out of their last 13 games, and teams with momentum like this often do well in the NCAA Tournament. Teams that win close games also tend to do well, and Dayton's done that a few times, too. This means that the Orange can't let the Flyers hang around. Seeing how the boys played against WMU, though, I think Stella got her groove back.
Syracuse 70 - Dayton 62
The talk during/after the Dayton/Ohio State game was that the Flyers were just as big an athletic as OSU and that the Buckeyes were ill equipped to handle it. I think having a chance to see Dayton up close will benefit the Orange. The Flyers are a very similar team to Western Michigan. Probably a bit better, but not good enough if the Orange play the way they did against the Broncos.
Syracuse 68 - Dayton 55
My weirdest observation after the first day of the NCAA Tournament was this: there were an incredible array of close games - a record number of overtime games - and yet Syracuse's was not one of them. It felt weird. It's not like I didn't see it coming. I predicted SU to win by about 20, but it was still nice to see the team play up to its potential. With that said, I don't know if that means they used up all their "stress-free karma" or will carry that level of play through to the next round. I tend to think it's the latter. Syracuse really only needs 2-3 of the key cogs to be clicking with the way the defense has played. They had three show up against WMU, with Fair being a solid, albeit less efficient, fourth. If you get something similar against Dayton, I just don't see the Flyers having a great chance.
Syracuse 70 - Dayton 58
So, that was fun yesterday. Anyone who didn't watch from noon until 1:30 am has a life, and having a life is the worst during the NCAA Tournament. Sleep is not that important, people. Anyway, Dayton's a really good team, but 1.) they haven't seen the zone, 2.) they're a small-ish team, their tallest player in the top five in minutes is 6'7". While they have some rangy forwards that can shoot it a bit in Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre, those two take less than five threes per game between them. The Flyer guards are smaller, and may have trouble shooting over the top. Dayton is also going to try to run with Syracuse, and while the Orange haven't played that way much this year, they have committed to transition ball since the Florida State game, and looked pretty decent doing it. If Cooney gives another good effort and CJ has a bounce-back game, Syracuse wins going away. If not, things could get dicey, but I think Jerami can absolutely dominate this match-up.
Syracuse 76 - Dayton 64
This is totally a reactionary pick but I watched every game on Thursday and this is what I saw: Syracuse played extremely well without CJ Fair at his best. The defense was aggressive and Jerami Grant is a beast inside. Dayton played awful. Well not awful but Dayton-OSU was not good basketball. I think Dayton struggles versus the zone.
Cuse 76 - Dayton 63, once again, the gypsy.
The Flyers may test the zone with some deep shots but, more importantly, they may test Syracuse's supposedly newly found (again) offense. I saw Mike Waters have a stat that, essentially, proves when an opponent hits 60 points Dayton is in trouble. Which means? The Flyers don't give up 60 or more points often. So SU will probably need a few more Trevor Cooney 3-pointers and CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis to each hit double-figures to escape. Which I think happens because Dayton will play aggressive man-to-man defense, which is exactly what the Orange thrives on -- remember Maui or the Duke games?
Syracuse 71 - Dayton 64
Heard Dayton coach Archie Miller say on the radio Friday morning he wants his team to play their game and continue to push the tempo in Saturday's game. Well, if that's what Dayton wants to do good luck and kudos to them if they pull-off a victory, but Syracuse--though, it's not its No. 1 strength--should be able to handle Dayton's strategy because it has the athletes and play-makers to do so.
Overall, looks like junior Jordan Sibert is their sharp-shooter, as he has knocked down over 40% of his team-leading 176 3-point attempts, and senior forward Devin Oliver is an all-around threat. Senior guard Vee Sanford was Thursday's hero for the Flyers, as he knocked down the game-winner over Aaron Craft. So, Syracuse is playing a team with some solid and hungry vets, which is always a concern.
However, I am not concerned too much. If Syracuse plays like they played against Western Michigan it should move on. Outside of Sibert, the Flyers aren't going to jack-up a ton of 3s (they attempted 13 on Thursday and 19 in their A-10 quarterfinal showdown with Saint Joe's, so if they make a good percentage it could spell trouble, but its not like they're Creighton). Inside, they're not too tall or athletic. Hopefully, for Syracuse, Thursday's performance is an indicator of what is to come and not an outlier in a crappy last month or so.
Syracuse 72 - Dayton 64
Be careful what you wish for when it comes to not having to play Ohio State. Dayton is really good, you guys. So good, that this one has toss up written all over it. I can try to analyze matchups, momentum, whatever, but I can't honestly tell you how this one is going turn out. In times like this when seasons and brackets are on the line, I have to resort to the only surefire way to pick a winner...so I am going to rely on my cousin Jenny who from 1988-2003 dominated my extended family's tournament bracket in a way that could only be compared to the great UCLA teams of the Wooden era. She'd start with her existing basketball knowledge of both teams (typically limited), then move to which mascot was cuter, what color she liked better, and then her general opinion of the schools' locations. It was some bizarre mash-up of AccuScore and "The View". So here we go:
Basketball knowledge: Syracuse is higher ranked and was #1 in the country at one point. They are clearly pretty good. SYRACUSE
Mascot: Otto is like the cutest mascot there is. Dayton has Rudy Flyer, who looks like an angry older man wearing an old aviator's helmet and a basketball jersey. An old man wearing a basketball jersey is kind of tacky. SYRACUSE
Color: Dayton is Red, white and blue, which is patriotic, but a little boring. Syracuse is orange. There aren't too many orange teams, and the color really pops on the television. SYRACUSE
School's locations: Dayton and Syracuse are both near some cities but are pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Syracuse seems to win a lot so I think it would make people in Dayton really happy if they won this time. DAYTON
So, according the the cousin Jenny method, Syracuse has a 3-1 advantage. Obviously, SU is going to win.
Syracuse 68 - Dayton 61
Dayton was able to eke past Ohio State on Thursday despite shooting less than 45 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 13 times, but I'm not so sure their OSU gameplan will translate well against Syracuse. The Flyers have just two players taller than 6'7", which basically removes them from the paint completely and forces them to rely on three-point shots to win the game. We've seen how this works in the past (it doesn't), but Dayton does hit 37.5 percent of its threes -- though that is based on just 17 attempts per game. Ultimately, it'll just come down to who can hit more shots between the two teams, who both possess similar offensive efficiency ratings. If the Flyers manage to get hot from three, this will be a battle for Syracuse. If not, the Orange should own the paint and will simply be tasked with shooting above 45 percent in order to take home a win.
Syracuse 68 - Dayton 61
Dayton looked unnervingly good against Ohio State. A lot of players on that Flyers team see playing time and the scoring is fairly balanced. The flyers managed 17 points off the bench and against OSU they showed off their tough, physical defense. But Syracuse can be physical too, and the rebound game will be critical on Saturday with seniors Matt Kavanaugh and Devin Oliver down low for Dayton. I simply think Syracuse is better than Ohio State, and I believe they will be able to take care of Dayton.
I don’t think SU fans could have been happier with the way the Orange took down Western Michigan. A strong offensive performance led to SU putting away an inferior opponent before the final minute of the game, something that we haven’t seen a whole lot of this year. Dayton is a team that can hang around however; they have won three of their games this year on a shot with four seconds remaining. I, and probably everybody else, am praying Cooney has got his groove back. He reached a .500 field goal percentage for the first time since the Notre Dame game and will need to be active again for Syracuse to take home the win. And of course, win or lose….#3 Duke vs. #6 Syracuse in men’s lacrosse, Sunday 12:30 pm, ESPNU.
Syracuse 68 - Dayton 57
First of all, I fully admit I was wrong about the Orange before the WMU game. I laughed at the idea that they score 70. They scored 77. My expectations have officially been recalibrated...and that's usually what gets me (and you) into trouble.
Syracuse should win this game. Dayton is better than WMU but Syracuse is better than OSU (trust me). If the Orange simply play a decent game, they will win. How many times have we seen them play poorly and still keep it close/win? They just need to be decent. Cooney needs to hit a couple threes. Grant and Fair need to get their shots. Ennis needs to be Ennis. And if that happens, we're off to the Sweet Sixteen.
If we do win, first person to gravy-ize the situation gets banned.
Syracuse 67 - Dayton 60
Now it's your turn...