The Syracuse Orange look to advance to the round of 32 tonight when they take on the Montana Grizzlies. Tip off is set for 10:00 EST, and is being televised on TruTV (channel 884 for most of the Syracuse market).
In my opinion, the first round is much more difficult than the second round. Sure, in the second round you are playing a more talented team than in the first. But in the case of Syracuse, who is frequently seeded relatively high, the first round almost always consists of a small school that had a great regular season. Taking a look at this year’s tournament, the Orange are matched up with a Montana team that went 19-1 in the Big Sky this season, with the Grizzlies compiling 25 wins overall for their school.
The Grizzlies are going to have to overcome the loss of senior forward Mathias Ward. Ward had surgery earlier this month, and will not be in uniform for Montana tonight. Ward is the team’s leading scorer, but the Grizzlies have won 6 in a row without him in the lineup.
With the loss of Ward, the workload will be put heavily on junior G-F Kareem Jamar. Jamar averages 14.5 points a game while grabbing 6 rebounds a game, and the Orange will have to know where he is at all times on the court. He is by far the Grizzlies’ biggest offensive threat, and if the 2-3 zone can contain him, Syracuse should have no trouble limiting Montana’s scoring.
One player to watch out for that you may not know about with this Montana team is sophomore guard Jordan Gregory. Gregory is a player that can hit the three, and also knows how to score. He has been relatively inconsistent so far this season, but if he can get going early, he could give the Orange fits throughout the night.
This game will be interesting to see how the Syracuse offense runs against this Montana defense. Syracuse has done a great job executing their offense against teams they had far more athleticism than, and this should be the case tonight as well. Coming off of one of their worst halves of basketball all season, I believe it is important for them to come out with a bang tonight, and take the Grizzlies out of the game early. The longer you let an underdog hang around, the more confident they get. For a team that went 19-1 in their conference, that confidence could be crippling for the Orange should Montana hang around with them in to the second half.
This is a game that Syracuse should win handily, and if they play to their potential this game should be over in the first half.