The Syracuse Orange have made a surprising run to the Sweet Sixteen and they'll try to keep the magic going when they face the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Both teams are double-digits who have defied the odds and now have a shot at the Elite Eight. The two almost met in the beginning of the season but apparently they wanted to wait a bit. Now we know why.
Can the Orange pull off another tournament win? Or will the gravy start pouring come Saturday morning? Let's see what everyone thinks...
Gonzaga 70 - Syracuse 64
It's been an incredible run for Syracuse this last week but I think this is where the ride ends. Gonzaga will be able to rebound against Syracuse on both ends which will ultimately cost the Orange the game. I expect Sabonis and Wiltjer to have solid outings while Eric McClellan slows down Gbinije. Kyle Dranginis does all the little things for the Zags as he's done all year and Syracuse is sent home. Even with the loss this Syracuse team has overachieved in my eyes.
Gonzaga 73 - Syracuse 61
I want to pick Syracuse to win this game–I really do, believe me–but, I wouldn't bet on it. Gonzaga is simply a matchup nightmare for the Orange. Syracuse has struggled against teams with productive big men all season long, and Gonzaga has arguably the most talented big man left in the tournament in Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis is a 6' 11" freak of nature who has shown in recent weeks that he can score at will against most teams in the country. Sabonis going up against the combination of Tyler Roberson, DaJuan Coleman, and Tyler Lydon? Should be a piece of cake. Unless Roberson, Coleman, and Lydon all suddenly greatly improve their interior defense, Syracuse's magical "Us Against the World" run will end Friday night.
Gonzaga 68, Syracuse 63
My heart says that Syracuse will continue on this run and make it to the Elite Eight. That the offense will continue to do what it needs to, and the defense will stifle Gonzaga, as it does many teams come March, even those that seem to have the correct pieces to stop it. My heart says that Syracuse is destined to face Virginia, and finally get a win over the Hoos, who have dominated the series since SU joined the ACC. At that point, maybe the Orange would get credit for an NCAA Tournament win. Unfortunately, I continue to look at Gonzaga's roster, with two potential zone-busters in Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, and a disruptive, defensive stopper in Eric McClellan, and just think this is a really bad matchup. Wiltjer is the stereotype stretch four that should be able to do a ton of damage at the free throw line and in the corner. Sabonis is the type of big that dominates us on the boards, and he's a pretty deft passer as well. My heart says Syracuse, but my head says the Orange run ends here, and the Zags advance.
Syracuse 68 - Gonzaga 64
You know, you could have convinced me of a pretty terrible Orange loss until I heard Gonzaga-folk getting awfully confident in their chances. No, that's not the reason most teams lose a game, but over-confidence can certainly play a part in defeats every so often. Getting to the actual basketball, however: Syracuse's defense is playing at an extremely high level of late, and shutting down shooters well enough to cause any team headaches. Does that mean Kyle Wiltjer's in for a bad day? Probably not. But even slowing him down could pay big dividends in a game that is very likely to come down to a couple choice possessions. I wouldn't stake my life on it, but I'd bet the Orange find a way to force Domantas Sabonis into some early mistakes and disrupt the Zags' game. If they can do that, the offense falls squarely on Wiltjer and everything changes. Please let this happen. For me?
Syracuse 70 - Gonzaga 69
Okay, so, I hear you guys about why Gonzaga should win this game. On paper, they're probably more talented. But, you know...I'm not sure this Syracuse team can make it to the Final Four but I've just got a feeling we're due for something weird tonight. Like, somebody is going to come out of nowhere and keep SU in a game they're not supposed to be in. And while the Zags are a tough opponent for the zone defense, the Syracuse zone in the NCAAs is a different animal when it's clicking.
How about you?