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Syracuse a trendy upset pick? Orange may have won some experts over

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The NCAA Tournament has been full of SU-related surprises lately, and this year could be more of the same.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In the “Apology Tour” era of the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program (2016-present), the driving force has been a feeling among experts and outside fans that SU doesn’t deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament and that they’ll lose once they (unfairly) arrive.

Unfortunately for them, that hasn’t been the case in 2016 (Final Four) or 2018 (Sweet 16). This time around, though, some are starting to become comfortable with the fact that Syracuse not only deserves the bid but it’s a smart bet that they’ll pull upset off while they’re in the field.

Not everyone’s a convert, but some believe. One of the biggest believers is The Ringer’s Mark Titus, who circled Syracuse’s game against Gonzaga as the Bulldogs’ biggest challenge to reaching the Final Four of the potential matchups in the West Region. He describes the zone as a “knuckleball,” and it’s functioned a lot like one in the NCAAs of late. Baylor playing zone will make it a little easier for the Zags to prepare for both opponents at the same time — but the Bears’ zone looks nothing like what SU brings to the table given Baylor’s lack of size, comparatively. In any case, could pose an interesting matchup and one where we don’t have to hear much yelling about i advance (unlike previous years).

That, plus the rest of your Syracuse-related links below:

2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Best Matchups, Story Lines, and Scenarios (The Ringer)

But no coach in America has consistently taken turds into the NCAA tournament and turned them into unhittable knuckleballs like Boeheim has, which is why Syracuse is always a fascinating team to keep an eye on in March. It’s also why I’d be more worried about a second-round game against the Orange than any other potential matchup on the road to the Final Four if I were a Gonzaga fan.

Baylor-Syracuse: Early statistical look and thoughts (Our Daily Bears)

With Syracuse’s struggles hitting threes, and their strength driving, Baylor needs to stay zone. King McClure, Makai Mason and Jared Butler are all still getting back from various injuries. While the degree of some of those problems varies, Baylor’s struggled limiting quick guards. The zone helps Baylor stay closer against drives. It will give up threes, but if Syracuse makes those shots, congratulate them on another run.

NCAA Tournament West Region Mega-Preview (The Slipper Still Fits)

Even more: When they faced elite teams this year, Duke scored 91, 84, and 75, Florida State scored 80, Virginia scored 79, and even Buffalo scored 71. They lost four of their last five games and missed Tyus Battle in the ACC Tournament. He’s still banged up, but is expected to return on Thursday. The biggest problem with this Orange team is their offense.

The 15 rules for NCAA tournament bracket predictions (SB Nation)

That trend continued last season when Syracuse defeated Arizona State in Dayton, then knocked off both TCU and Michigan State to crash the Sweet 16. Overall, the First Four has produced four Sweet 16 squads and a Final Four team in VCU. Pick one of the four last at-large selections to this year’s field and ride that team to at least the second round of the Big Dance.

No nervousness for Syracuse Orange on this Selection Sunday (Syracuse.com)

Howard and the rest of his teammates had gone through a routine practice on Sunday before settling into the players’ lounge at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center to watch the Selection Show. “It’s good that we got to just have a good day of practice and just watch everything unfold,’’ Howard said.

5 things Baylor fans should know about Syracuse before the NCAA tournament, including its top offensive threat (Dallas News)

The Long Road to the 2019 Final Four: How Far Will Each NCAA Tournament Team Have to Travel? (AllMyTeamsSuck)

What Would the 2019 NCAA Tournament Look Like Based on NET Rankings? (Stadium)

SU not involved in college admissions scandal (Daily Orange)

First and 10: Asmussen’s 10 best basketball-and-football programs (Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette)