March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (3) Syracuse vs. (11) Dayton

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(3) Syracuse Orange
After going undefeated through February 19, the Orange became a trendy pick to get upset early by losing five of their last seven going into the tournament. However, Western Michigan didn’t have what it takes to play the role of Cinderella. Four Orange starters scored in double figures, their zone held the Broncos to 34 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from distance and they walked away with a dominating 77-53 victory. Amongst the most encouraging things to take away from the Orange’s win was the play of Jerami Grant, who has been hampered by back issues as of late. You wouldn’t have been able to tell on Thursday, though, as he looked as quick and explosive as ever while posting 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis did not look fazed at all by playing in his first NCAA Tournament game, matching Grant’s 16 while dishing out a game-high six assists. Senior forward C.J. Fair was also stellar, recording a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. In the Round of 32 against the upset minded Flyers the Orange need to put forth another dominant effort on the boards. They outrebounded the Broncos 41-25, but the Flyers are much tougher on the glass. They’re also very balanced offensively, so the Orange’s defensive rotations will need to be crisp.

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(11) Dayton Flyers
The Ohio State Buckeyes are regarded as the premier men’s basketball program in the state of Ohio. They’ve been to three straight Sweet 16s; this year’s veteran laden group was a big part of that streak, but it came to an end on Thursday as Dayton upset them 60-59. The game was back and forth and thrilling down to the final moments, where senior point guard Aaron Craft was unable to hit what would have been the game winner for the Buckeyes from 10 feet. Instead, it was Vee Sanford who ended up the hero as his layup with 3.8 seconds remaining ended up being the difference maker. Sanford was one of three double-digit scorers for the Flyers; nobody had more than 12. That kind of balance has been the staple of their team all season long. They struggled shooting the three ball, going just 3-13 from deep. They’re not a team that relies heavily on the three ball, but they’ll need to be more effective against the vaunted 2-3 zone defense of Syracuse in the Round of 32. The Flyers’ defense, which allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 48 percent from the field, will face a much tougher test against a better offensive team in the Orange. They did do a good job of defending the three, though, and it’s when they’re not hitting from distance that the Orange are vulnerable. The win against OSU was one of the biggest in program history, but the time to really celebrate and relish in it has passed. They have to put it behind them and refocus in order to survive and advance.