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Syracuse-Dayton Preview: In Their Own Words

On Saturday night, the third-seeded Syracuse Orange take on the #11 seed Dayton Flyers for a slot in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen next weekend in Memphis, Tennessee. This we know.

Both teams spent Friday talking to the media and preparing for their matchup. Jim Boeheim, C.J. Fair, and Baye Moussa Keita spoke at the afternoon news conference for the Orange, and Head Coach Archie Miller, forward Devin Oliver, and guard Vee Sanford spoke on behalf of the Flyers.

Here’s a preview of the contest, in their own words:

On preparing for each other and some lack of familiarity, despite both playing in the Maui Invitational this year (but not meeting):

Keita: "Dayton is a tough matchup. We see them play a little bit at the end of regulation against Baylor in Maui, but we didn’t have a chance to watch them play the whole tournament. We’ve got to go through their offense and see the faces we’re going to match up with tomorrow."

Miller: "We didn’t spend a ton of time watching them (Syracuse), just the eye test because the Maui games are back to back. Saw them really one time because we played Cal and they did as well."

Boeheim: "You know, I don’t watch much tape, so it’s not much different to me. I don’t mind. It’s the same for everybody. You got to get your team ready. As long as it’s the same for everybody, it’s fine."

"We think Dayton’s terrific. We happened to see them play in person in Hawaii three times. So we know how good they are before we ever got here."

On Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense:

Oliver: "They (Syracuse) pride themselves on being really long in the zone and forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. They’ve got some athletic guys."

"I think the most important thing is to just continue to do what we do. The zone is the zone. I mean, it’s basketball."

"I think we’ve just got to focus on what we’re trying to do as a team – play physical and play aggressive. Don’t just settle for launching threes and playing around the perimeter, but doing what we’ve got to do to get the ball into the interior."

Sanford: "They’re really good, a long team in the zone. You can’t slack off. They like to get it out – the whole roster is pretty good."

Miller: "I didn’t think we saw a lot of zone in the A-10 this year. Usually you see a little bit more. In nonconference, I don’t think we saw a lot of man-to-man. So we’ve corrected things. I think we have a different way of attcking the zone now than we did in the nonconference."

"Obviously the size and length of the zone can consume you if you let it. You’re going to have to be organized. They thrive on steals. They thrive on the defense creating offense."

Fair: "Today in practice we’re going to go over a lot of the tendencies against the zone. We know they’ve got a lot of players that can do multiple things. Dayton is a tough matchup, but we’re going to prepare as much as possible for the game tomorrow."

On pace and the transition game:

Miller: "One thing we have to amp up is our pace of play. When we play against the zone, we have to play as fast as we do against the man. That’s the comfort level of our kids. That’s the one thing we’ve got to do tomorrow, that game’s got to be on the run."

"Sometimes you can push it as fast as you want. You’re just not going to get anything because the same looks you usually get aren’t there. I don’t know what the score of the game is going to be, but I know our defense has got to be as good as it’s been the last two or three weeks."

Fair: "We do a good job of getting back. Since we play zone, we can just run back to our area. Our guards do a good job of stopping the fast break. By the time that happens, our forwards are back, and we can regroup from there."

Boeheim: "If teams are going to hold the ball for the whole shot clock, which we see sometimes, it’s hard to get in a running game. You’re not going to probably be able to run in those situations. You try to run when you can, but it’s difficult."

"Teams that play a little faster, then I think you can get up and down a little bit better. But really, the pace of the game is dictated by whoever has the basketball. Basically, that’s the way it is."

On conditioning and team depth:

Miller: "Sometimes when the four-minute medias (timeouts) go over, guys are gassed. More so on offense – when they’re not running the floor – than they do on defense. I think where they rest the most during those stretches when they’re gassed is running the floor on offense. You’re hoping to get to the media as fast as you can to get to the subs."

"Both teams have been through the battles, and I think the guys on the floor are conditioned as this point to play as many minutes as they possibly can. I also think, at this stage, the adrenaline that’s out there now, that helps you." "One thing about the NCAA tournament, when you get a couple of media, they’re longer than normal. So you get a little extra rest."

Keita: "It doesn’t matter if they play 9, 10 guys and we play 7 or 6. I think everyone is going to play their game, play the hardest we can."

Fair: "They rotate a lot of guys in and out frequently. For us, we play our starters the majority of the game. But it’s been effective that way, so I don’t see no problem with it."

"We have some experience in the beginning of our season where we was in Hawaii, and we played three days in a row. So coming into the tournament, it’s not a lot of time to get rest, but everyone is going to be eager to play."

On the evening start time:

Miller: I don’t care when we play. We’re excited to play in general. I think a 7:10 tip in here (First Niagara Center), the environment with Syracuse being here is going to be one heck of a scene.

Boeheim: I kind of like the 4:00 game where you’re not too early, not too late. It’s fine. Whatever, you know? It’s good. 7:00 is fine. I’m good with that.

On conference affiliations:

Miller: "I think the conference is always something you take great pride in. In particular, I think the Atlantic 10 is underrated… I think there’s a little chip on your shoulder when you’re in the Atlantic 10, usually because you’re constantly left out of the BCS talk. But when you build your schedule and you’re building your program, everything is revolved around the strength of your conference and what you’re trying to do."

Boeheim: "I just don’t think about it (the old Big East) anymore. You’ve got to move on. It’s like you don’t ask questions about someone’s ex-wife, do you? There’s a good reason for that. You can only get in trouble answering that question."