Despite Syracuse slipping from a surefire one seed in the east region in the NCAA Tournament to a three seed in the south region, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim expressed optimism about his team’s chances. The Orange will play Thursday against Western Michigan in Buffalo, NY, at 2:45 p.m.
Boeheim downplayed the location being so close to Syracuse.
“Where you play isn’t going to have much of a factor,” Boeheim said. “It is how you play, you have to play well.”
After starting the season 25-0, Syracuse lost four of five games, and then lost in its first game in the ACC Tournament. Still, Boeheim said he was happy with 27 wins and his defense, which has been key to those wins this season.
“Overall we played very consistently this year on the defensive end,” Boeheim said. “Defense is important; it is especially important in the NCAA tournament, we are one of the best in the country.”
That has not been the case for the offense, which didn’t break 70 points for nearly six weeks after a 91-89 win over Duke on Feb. 1.
The Orange again struggled in the ACC Tournament, shooting 32 percent in a 66-63 loss to North Carolina State.
“We certainly would like to shoot the ball better, hopefully we will,” Boeheim said. “We won 27 games shooting the way we were shooting so we will see how it goes.”
Still, Syracuse’s win against Florida State game was a better showing on offense for the Orange. Boeheim acknowledged losing Jerami Grant was a huge factor in some of the team’s losses. With a lot of good players, the team needs balance to succeed.
“Having Jerami back in full strength and having the team back together to play is huge,” Boeheim said. “I’m as confident with this team as I was last year.”
Boeheim wasn’t bothered by SU’s loss to NC State in the ACC tournament.
“The last two times we won the conference tournament we lost first round,” Boeheim said. “The outcome of the conference tournament is not indicative of how a team will do.”
As for the bracket, Boeheim had no complaints in what he saw.
“You have to go by the year,” Boeheim said. “It’s what you did in the year the whole year not just the past 10 or 5 games. Overall we had a great year, especially against the top 50.”