With the Syracuse set to play in the NCAA tournament against Dayton on Friday, the staffers at The Juice Online make their predictions on what will happen this year.
Brad Bierman: Since the three wins in three days down in the sunny Bahamas last November seems so long ago, especially with the soap opera scenario of the change in Jim Boeheim’s suspension and a season marked by the contrast of losing to an eight win St. John’s team, while winning at always tough Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke, we were still in disbelief Sunday evening when the leaked bracket on Twitter indicated a No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region to face prior NCAA nemesis Dayton, the 7 seed. Once it was official 30 minutes later, our immediate thoughts turned to the Orange getting a sweet taste of revenge against the Flyers for a 20th victory, before coming back down to earth in the Round of 32 and giving No. 2 seed Michigan State a run, before falling 70-63 to end up with a rather un-Boeheim-like 20-14 record.
Jeff Irvine: Syracuse will be out for revenge against the Dayton after a disappointing upset two years ago. The Flyers are a good defensive team that excels at limiting second chances. Fortunately, the Orange’s strength is not offensive rebounding. The Orange will win a close game by taking advantage of Dayton’s relatively weak 3-point defense. Expect Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson to bounce back from recent rough patches to have a good shooting performance. In the second round, the Orange will face a team that many consider to be the best in the tournament with possibly the best player in the tournament in Denzel Valentine and coached by, according to the statistics, the best Tournament coach in the business. Call me crazy, but I’ll call the upset for the Orange. Syracuse has been playing close games against good teams all season, and when it matters most SU will pull off the biggest upset of the tournament. The Orange will then sail past an upstart Seton Hall team in the Sweet Sixteen but ultimately fall to ACC nemesis Virginia in the Elite Eight.
Jim Stechschulte: Dear Syracuse fans: Have you had enough rock fights disguised as basketball games? No? Well, that’s good. Syracuse is playing Dayton, as they did two years ago in a 55-53 barnburner. (The term “barnburner” is used sarcastically in this case.) Nothing is going to change this time around. Expect a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair as the Flyers play at a pace fairly similar to SU’s limited possession game. Syracuse has a fair chance at winning, as the game is essentially a coin toss with the Flyers. Should the Orange do that and extend their season by another game, that season will end Sunday. The most likely opponent on Sunday is Michigan State, who is the top rebounding team in the country, as well as the ranked fourth in offensive rating, so the dream ends there. Getting in the tournament was a pleasant surprise, getting one win would be a bonus.
Steve Auger: A fairly well known football coach once uttered the phrase “you are what you are.” And as this year’s NCAA Tournament commences, the Syracuse Orange is exactly what we think it is: a very flawed unit. The team’s best player, a natural small forward, is the starting point guard because the returning point guard not only lost the starting job but he also lost any semblance of playing time and now seems destined to transfer once the season concludes. The team’s starting shooting guard has been colder of late than a typical upstate New York winter. The Orange lives and dies by the three. And the only bench production comes from two freshmen. It’s gift for staggering across the season’s finish line? A rematch with the Flying Dan Patricks of Dayton. If Syracuse wants to exact revenge for an embarrassing loss two seasons ago, the team should remember that revenge is a dish best served cold. But that won’t happen if SU is frigid from beyond the arc. Dayton 68, Syracuse 64.