Syracuse will try to advance to the Sweet 16 when it plays old Big East rival West Virginia on Sunday at 5:15 p.m. (TV: CBS). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman gives his predictions below.
Season Record: 4-3
This great rivalry from the days when both programs were Eastern Independents to the Big East era between 1995-2012, hasn’t seen a game in the series in nine years before the late afternoon NCAA tip Sunday in Indianapolis.
Although it doesn’t affect the players on the two rosters this season, Jim Boeheim has bested Bob Huggins in five of the six meetings between the coaches who are among the top five in all-time victories. The two veterans have won an incredible 1,982 games between them, after Huggins recorded his 900 th victory in Friday night’s 84-67 opening round WVU win over Morehead State.
The Mountaineers pulled away turning up the defense, and led by fleet guard Miles McBride who dazzled scoring-wise with 30 points, along with six boards and six assists. WVU big man Derek Culver struggled until midway in the second half, finishing with 12 points, 10 in the second half.
Syracuse’s start-to-finish 78-62 win over San Diego State was a thing of beauty, albeit there were some petty distractions such as too many second chance scoring opportunities given up, and a tad of sloppiness on a bunch of offensive possessions.
It’s certainly hard to argue with SU’s 55 percent shooting from the field, and an active and stingy Orange zone defense that held the aimless-at-times Aztecs scoreless through almost an entire half of a half of playing time.
That’s the recipe the ‘Cuse needs to stay another week in Indy and advance to the Sweet 16 for the 15 th time under Boeheim. Looking like he’s savoring the strategy chess match in the post season, the coach has masterfully pulled the strings drawing up plays and substituting, turning this year’s squad into a dependable eight players deep rotation with the different personnel changing the look and pace on the court.
As smart as Huggins is preparing his teams, again comes the limited opportunity in one day to prep for the Syracuse zone, and with Buddy Boeheim’s ceiling for success seemingly still growing, it’s hard not to like SU staying on a roll. Late free throws will help cement Syracuse stopping West Virginia 74-69 to stay on the floor in the Big Dance, and a predicted meeting with Houston in the Sweet 16.