Syracuse will begin its quest for a second National Championship when it plays UNC-Asheville in the second round of the NCAA tournament. It will do so without starting center Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible on Tuesday.
BIG SOUTH KINGS: UNC Asheville claimed its second straight NCAA berth by bulldozing its way through the Big South tournament. In its three games, the Bulldogs won by an average of 22.7 points per game as they recorded a school-record 24 wins. But it’s hard to gauge what those 24 wins mean. In non-conference play, Asheville’s “resume” win was against a Utah team that went 6-24 and finished near the bottom of the Pac 12. While they had respectable showings against then-No. 1 UNC (91-75), then-No. 4 UConn (73-63), Tennessee (72-68) and N.C. State (84-75), they still lost all of those games.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: UNC-Asheville is one of the top offenses in the nation. They rank fifth in points (81.2), eighth in assists (16.6) and are 16th in field goal percentage. But the Bulldogs are also very small, going with a starting lineup that features the 6-foot-5 Quinard Jackson and 6-foot-4 Jeremy Atkinson as their big men. As a result, they are 157th in the country in rebounds at 34.7 a game. Still, Atkinson, a JUCO transfer, is a solid low post defender, and hits 53.7 percent of his shots.
IN UNC-ASHEVILLE’S LAST GAME: The Bulldogs had no problems in the Big South Conference Championship, cruising past VMI 80-64. Matt Dickey scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half and added five steals for UNC-Asheville.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: The Orange and Bulldogs have met three times before, with SU winning all three contests. The last time these two teams met was in the 2003-04 season, with Syracuse winning 81-63.
GAME INFORMATION: Thu., Mar. 15, 3:10 p.m. Pittsburgh, PA. TV: truTV. Follow us on Twitter @thejuiceonline for live game updates