The regular season was a series of ups-and-downs for the TNIAAM team in terms of predictions, but now we have a fresh slate with the Big Dance getting under way. The 8-seed Syracuse Orange will start their hopeful NCAA Tournament run with the 9-seed Baylor Bears at no earlier than 9:57 p.m. ET tonight (more likely 10:20-10:30ish).
Will the Orange extend their season, or will it be an early exit for this talented bunch? Let’s see what the “experts” have to say about Thursday night’s showdown.
Syracuse 70, Baylor 59
I see Baylor’s lack of size being the real difference here. If Syracuse is able to keep the Bears off of the offensive boards, then the Orange should be in business here. Tyus Battle lives for big moments, and there is no bigger moment than playing in March. Battle will get the Orange going early in game one, and a double-digit lead at the half will be too much for the Bears to handle.
Syracuse 67, Baylor 61
Despite what might be a general and wrong narrative, Syracuse doesn’t lose NCAA tourney openers often. For all of his critics, Jim Boeheim is as well-prepared for this time of year than just about anyone else. So that’s a big advantage in and of itself. On top of that, Baylor is not very good. Outside of Makai Mason, there’s not a whole lot of threats. Tyus Battle is supposedly healthy, and he’s the most talented player out there, and Syracuse also has Jim Boeheim. That’s enough for the win.
Syracuse 61, Baylor 57
Neither team wants to push the tempo so look for both offenses to try and take their time against the opponent’s zone defense. Can Syracuse keep Baylor off the offensive glass? Will the Orange use their size advantage to work the ball inside on offense? I think in the end Syracuse does enough on the defensive end to limit the second-chance points for Baylor and advances to the next round.
Syracuse 60, Baylor 59
It’ll be a good night for the Scott Drew can’t coach crowd tonight as Syracuse will still take down Baylor but will fail to cover. Seriously though, this game has big implications for both sides as the fan base for the loser of this contest will be incensed. That’s how it goes in March.
I still think the Orange have enough here to get it done without Frank Howard, but it does leave the door open for shooters like Makai Mason and Devonte Bandoo. This game will be decided on the boards and in the turnover department as Syracuse is amongst the nation’s leaders in turnover percentage and Baylor struggles taking care of the rock. The Bears also offensive rebound amongst the best in the country and Syracuse has struggled in that area at times in the 2-3 zone. Still, Syracuse gets it done down the stretch with defense and closes this one out.
Syracuse 60, Baylor 57
This game will be hideous, and maybe more so without Frank Howard. While Howard’s been hot-and-cold on offense, he’d hit his stride lately and is also a great defender. That make things easier for Baylor on the other end now. If Baylor finds a way to get hot from outside, this game’s over quickly. If not, the Orange still have enough size to compete on the boards and hopefully stick to efficient shooting on offense. An SU squad that stays out of foul trouble should also be in this one ‘til the end.
Syracuse 70, Baylor 66
The loss of Frank Howard hurts here in the sense that it limits the amount of turnovers that Syracuse can force Baylor to commit. I’ve been a big fan of Buddy Boeheim’s defensive poise and the ACC Tournament showed both his scoring capability and the team’s to turn defense into offense. Those two things should be enough in his absence given Baylor’s offensive struggles — in particular free throws and turnovers.
Who will win the Syracuse vs. Baylor game?
This poll is closed
The Orange, and we continue dancing into the round of 32!
The Bears, and it’s an abrupt end to the season for Syracuse.