Syracuse will play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening at 9:40 p.m. (CBS) against TCU. Ahead of the game, here are three things to look out for.
CAN SYRACUSE DEFEAT AN OLD FOE?
Syracuse is all too familiar with TCU’s head coach, Jamie Dixon.
Dixon was the head coach at Pitt from 2003-2016, and during that time, the Panthers were nonplussed by Syracuse and its zone, holding a 15-6 record.
He coached his Pitt teams remarkably well against the zone, emphasizing ball movement and making good use of the free throw line extended. His Pitt teams were also physical and had a knack for the offensive glass, two things that Syracuse teams have typically struggled against.
Dixon is in his second season at TCU, so he hasn’t had time to recruit that kind of player just yet, but he will certainly have a plan for attacking and exploiting weaknesses in the 2-3 zone.
Dixon consistently took his Pitt teams to the NCAA Tournament, but after the 2016 season, TCU, his alma mater, offered him the position and the Panthers didn’t push too hard to keep him.
That proved to be a mistake, with the Panthers going 0-19 in ACC play this season under second year coach Kevin Stallings. Stallings was fired at the end of the season.
CAN THE ZONE SLOW DOWN TCU’S OFFENSE?
As we just talked about, TCU isn’t quite the classic team that Syracuse faced at Pittsburgh.
The Horned Frogs rank 269th in the NCAA on defense, allowing 75.9 points per game, and they are also weak on the glass, ranking 118th, with 36.4 rebounds per game.
But they will still pose plenty of problems for SU’s 2-3 zone because they excel both in ball movement and outside shooting.
TCU averages 18.8 assists per game, which is second in the NCAA, and feature seven players on their roster who have shot 30 percent or better from downtown. That excludes Jaylen Fisher (12.3 points, 43.9 3P%), who is out the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Four of its players (Again, excluding Fisher) average double figures, so it will be hard for Syracuse’s zone to focus in on a single player.
WILL FRANK HOWARD BE HEALTHY?
In Syracuse’s 60-56 opening round win over Arizona State, Oshae Brissett turned in one of the finest performances of the esason, scoring 23 points to go with 12 rebounds. Tyus Battle added 15 points on 6-14 shooting.
Meanwhile, Frank Howard, struggling with strep throat, struggled through a 4-13 shooting night.
“He missed two practice days,” Syracuse coach head Jim Boeheim said. “Strep throat knocks it out of you.”
The Orange will need its starting point guard to be healthy if it wants to keep pace with TCU’s high-powered offense.