Thursday was a wild day of basketball, but the Syracuse Orange were able to avoid that with an easy victory over Western Michigan. Their next opponent, Dayton, however, was right in the middle of the drama.
The Flyers snuck by in-state rival Ohio State 60-59 on a floater hit by Vee Sanford with just under four seconds left in the game. Now they have to turn around and face a tough Syracuse team on Saturday that showed glimpses of their early season form in their first NCAA tournament game.
These two teams almost met in the Maui Invitational Championship game in November, but the Flyers fell to Baylor by one point. The Orange then beat the Bears for the tournament title. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday in his post game press conference that he thought the Flyers were the second best team in that tournament and thought they would be the team they met in the final game. Now, the two are facing each other in another tournament, but this one has a little more on the line than Maui did.
The Flyers feature a balanced offensive attack. Their top four scorers average between 9.9 and 12.4 points on the season, so not very explosive but spread out and affective. Flyers coach Archie Miller used 11 players yesterday to beat Ohio State. The Orange normally play seven deep so their depth could help give them an advantage.
The Flyers aren’t the best defensive team, which is key for the Orange, who are looking to stay hot after shooting 49 percent against Western Michigan. The Flyers allow opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from three, 178th and 160th in the nation. The Orange should look to play aggressive early again and get Trevor Cooney more looks from beyond the arc. Ohio State, who shoots 44.2 percent on the season, shot 48 percent from the field against the Flyers. The Orange shoot 43.9 percent from the field, so if the Buckeyes struggling offense can do well against the Flyer defense, than they have a chance to do so as well.
The Pick: I think this matchup will come down to two key factors, rebounding and turnovers. Both teams are about even on the boards with rebound margins of +4. The Orange like to get on the offensive glass, grabbing 11.7 per game, but the Flyers only give up eight to their opponents. Second chance points will become a key stat. The Flyers had 10 steals against the Buckeyes but also turned the ball over 14 times. The Orange like to force turnovers too, but do a better job of taking care of the ball then their opponent (12 turnovers per game for Dayton and just nine for the Orange) so whoever takes care of the ball will have an advantage. I think that the Orange will do better in both of those categories. This will be a close game and I think Dayton has a solid squad that is riding off a lot of momentum right now, but the Orange match up well with them. Again they need to be the aggressors if they want to win and take this one 70-63.
When: 7:10 p.m. ET Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York
Tickets: NCAA tournament tickets