We recently chatted with SNY’s very own, Eamon McAnaney, to get his take on the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Syracuse’s first round matchup against Yale, and his pick to win it all. Here’s what he had to say:
The Juice Online: You said earlier in the year that it would be OK if Syracuse lost in the ACC Tournament to UNC. Do you still feel the same way?
Eamon McAnaney: I do. Obviously, I think if they had won the ACC Tournament, they could’ve gotten the No. 1 seed, but the No. 1 seed is playing Albany. It is that an easier game than Penn State? I don’t think so. So I don’t think that really hurt them. I think it was a wake up call. Rest some bodies instead of playing an extra game in 36 hours. Notre Dame had to deal with that. I don’t think Notre Dame has recovered yet. I don’t think it was the worst thing in the world for Syracuse to lose that game to North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong. I think the competitive nature, you want to win an ACC Championship, and you want to win every game you play, but I think in the long run, it will be a helpful losing that game.
TJO: Maryland is the No. 1 overall seed. Are they the team to beat?
EM: I think they’re the favorite. I think they’re the most balanced team, but I don’t think they’re the favorite by a landslide. I think they’re the most experienced team, and they’re not going to flinch because they’ve been through the ringer. They had the most solid season outside of a loss to Villanova which could’ve cost them the No. 1 seed. This was a good year for the Big 10, which is why they got the No. 1 seed. They’re playing very well. They took care of Johns Hopkins with ease on a Saturday night, and they took care of business in the Big 10 Tournament, so they’re very worthy of a No. 1.
TJO: Who do you see as your dark horse?
EM: I don’t know if it’s out of nowhere since they’ve been knocking on the door, but certainly Albany if they can break through. It’s a different team without the Thompsons, but they’re still a very balanced team. If they can get by North Carolina, if they can take advantage of the home crowd, it’s going to be the largest on-campus crowd for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, if they can feed off the crowd and knock off North Carolina, they get a rematch with Maryland. They only lost to them by one goal. I think Albany is that team that everyone is waiting to break through.
TJO: How about Syracuse’s path to the NCAA Championship?
EM: They have a very tough opening round for a two-seed. Yale might not have the numbers because they had some losses when Ben Reeves was hurt, but I think it’s a very tough matchup for Syracuse. The faceoff kid from New Jersey, Mackey, that could neutralize the advantage that Syracuse is used to living on. As great as the ACC has been, it could be the toughest matchup Syracuse has had in facing Ben Reeves. Again, you talk about Albany knocking on the door, Yale has been there too. Yale had them on the ropes and then some in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. I know it’s a different team now, it’s a program that has been knocking on the door, and is not going to flinch heading into the Carrier Dome on a Sunday night. I think Syracuse has a very tough draw for a two-seed.
TJO: Who do you think will win it all?
EM: I think Duke is going to win it all. I’m not saying they’re the best team, but the bracket breaks their way. I think there’s going to be a lot of chaos. I think there’s going to be a lot of higher seeded teams losing in the first round, which is going to create a path for Duke to win. I don’t know if they’re the best team, but I see a lot of upsets. I see Marquette, Albany causing a lot of chaos, and I think that’s going to set a path for Duke being the last team standing on memorial day.