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NIT 2017: Previewing Syracuse vs. UNC-Greensboro


NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Lydon (20) battles three Cornell Big Red defenders to take a shot during the second half of a game at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won 80-56.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange received the No. 1 overall seed in the National Invitational Tournament on Sunday evening, and will play host to the No. 8 seed UNC-Greensboro Spartans on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

It’s not the position that any of us wanted to be in, and it doesn’t help that the NIT trolled Jim Boeheim by scheduling a team from Greensboro — but at least Jim doesn’t have to go there, right? Because who wants to go to Greensboro for anything? (yes, we mean anything)

But to the game: UNC-Greensboro comes into the Tuesday matchup with a 25-9 record and went 14-4 in the Southern Conference.

The Spartans only played one Top -5 team all season, which was then-No. 8 Virginia to open the year, and lost by 25.

The Spartans also have two six-game winning streaks and one nine-game winning streak during the season, and ended the year winning nine of its last 10 games.

UNC-Greensboro is led by sophomore guard Francis Alonso, who averages a team-best 15.2 points per game. He’s coming off of a season-high 28 points against Eastern Tennessee State last Monday. Alonso attended Cushing Academy, the same school as former SU point guard Kaleb Joseph.

6-foot-9 forward James Dickey leads the Spartans in rebounding with 7.3 per game.

The Spartans received an automatic bid to the NIT due to winning their regular season conference championship. They fell at the last second to ETSU in the SoCon finals.

UNCG’s 25-9 slate is the best record in the 50-year program history.

Wes Miller is in his sixth season as the UNCG head coach. He is under contract with the school through 2018-19. He took over on an interim basis in December of 2011.

Overall, Syracuse should have a size and athleticism advantage here, but the Spartans will be motivated, the Orange... could very well not be. While Alonso’s the most glaring offensive weapon for UNCG, it’s Dickey who SU will have to keep the closest eye on as this one gets started. Teams that attack the zone inside have fared well (see: Miami, Louisville) this year. The clearest route to success will be by attacking the paint.

On the SU end, it’ll be all about their shooters. If they can hit jumpshots at a reasonable clip, they should be able to push past Greensboro. But if they’re chucking early and start to fall behind, things could get very dicey. A Syracuse team that drives and forces contact (the key to John Gillon’s game, in particular) should find itself in pretty good shape.