Syracuse will begin its quest for a second NCAA Title when it plays in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Friday, Mar. 19 at 9:40 p.m. (TV: CBS). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen gives his predictions below.
Season Record: 7-2
When it comes to tournament success, experience is usually a key factor. With the NCAA Tournament cancelled in 2020, experience, for some teams, can be hard to come by.
San Diego State, however, is one of the most experienced teams in the entire NCAA Tournament field this year. The Aztecs start four seniors and a junior, and have lost a combined six games in the past two seasons.
They are currently ranked in the top 20 in both NCAA polls and won the regular and postseason titles in the Mountain West Conference. They also have the Mountain West Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in Matt Mitchell.
If you are looking for a stark difference between these teams, look no further than bench play.
For the Aztecs, 10 players average over 10 minutes per game, and no one averages more than 30. For the Orange, only seven players average more than 10 minutes per game, and four out of the starting five average over 31 minutes.
This game will be determined by how well Syracuse can shoot from the outside.
Buddy Boeheim has been nothing short of phenomenal in the last month for the Orange. Last week, he became the first Syracuse player to be named First Team All-ACC Tournament and is now tied for fourth place in scoring in the league.
What happens behind Boeheim will be key for the Orange.
Alan Griffin will likely be the player who decides which team wins this game. He’s been inconsistent this season from game to game, and is coming off one of his worst performances of the season against Virginia.
He played only 12 minutes and finished with three points on 0-4 shooting, but was also coming off a two-game stretch where he averaged 17 ppg on 56 percent shooting from the field.
That’s been the story of his season, as he’s had seven games where he has shot better than 50 percent from downtown, but he’s also had six games where he’s been held under 10 points.
As for the game, the Aztecs can flat out shoot, hitting 38 percent from 3 and 53 percent from the field. Though they’ve rarely seen zone this year, they have the veteran leadership that is unlikely to be frazzled by the Syracuse zone. Syracuse opened as three-point underdogs against SDSU, and I see a competitive game that ultimately gets away from Syracuse in the final minutes, with San Diego State winning 78-69.