We’ve always discussed how vital it is for programs like Dayton to make it to the second week of the NCAA tournament. A trip to the Sweet 16 for a mid-major team results in increased media exposure and further recognition from the general public. These are significant benefits that bigger programs take for granted.
Tournament appearances are important, they represent success. A tournament win is great, it proves you can compete. A visit to the second week is distinctive, it proves that you belong.
UD has been in this position before, in 2009 after an impressive victory over West Virginia. The Flyers collected the accolades, enjoyed the limelight and then bowed out quietly against Kansas two days later. There was no greater impact, Dayton was just another team that played well and overachieved for 40 minutes in the tournament. No foundation was set, in fact you could argue that the program noticeably regressed from that point. A loss to Syracuse doesn’t diminish this season’s accomplishments, but it certainly doesn’t signify a breakthrough for the Dayton basketball program. The Flyers need to take down the Cuse in order to raise their brand to a higher level.
There can be no greater avenue to the next level than taking down one of the elite programs in college basketball, Syracuse. And that asshole Jim Boeheim.
[quote_box_right]Q. Coach, I know you didn’t play Dayton in Maui, but did you get a chance to watch any of their games there? If you did, what did they do well?
COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, I saw them. I thought we were going to play them. They lost a very close game. I thought that we would play them in Hawaii. I thought they were really the second best team out there. They lost one-point game that they probably should have won probably. So I was very impressed with what they did out there. I’ve seen them a couple times this year. I watched the game today. They’ve got a very, very well-balanced team with a lot of guys that can play and put the ball in the basket.[/quote_box_right]
Syracuse flirted with the number one ranking all season and ran off twenty-five victories in a row before finally suffering a defeat at home against Boston College. The Orange slumped through the tail-end of their conference slate, going 2-4 (including a loss to BG!) to close out their regular season. Jim Boeheim’s club was knocked out of the ACC tournament quickly, losing their quarterfinal matchup to NC State.
Offensively, this has been one of the Cuse’s worst teams in quite a while. As a team, the Orange shoot just 43.9% from the field, 33.7% from behind the arc. Syracuse is averaging a mere 68.4 points per game, their lowest total in over 35 years. This is a program accustomed to scoring closer to 80 points a contest, not 70.
On paper, Syracuse shares many similarities with Ohio State — they just have diametrically opposed defensive philosophies. Syracuse has length at almost every position, featuring a host of players in the 6’8″-6’9″ range. In a way, the Orange are a fairly easy team to prepare for. You know they are going to make you hit shots from the perimeter and rebound the basketball. The huge difference this season’s has been the margin of error when facing Syracuse. Without its’ usual punch on offense, teams can hang around longer, getting used to the zone and eventually knocking down shots to gain confidence. Dayton’s guards won’t have to be perfect to beat the Cuse, but they certainly have to be effective from the perimeter for the Flyers to have a chance.
Meet and Greet
CJ Fair (16.6 ppg/6.3 rpg) came back for his senior year and he’s been the Cuse’s go-to guy all season. A richman’s Devin Oliver, Fair is tough to guard off the dribble, where he does much of his damage. Fair has a tendency to rely on his jumper too much, and will pop out for a three-point attempt every now and again, but he does the majority of his work from ten feet in. Fair had 14 and 11 on Thursday afternoon. Fair is a consistent performer, guaranteed to have a significant impact in tomorrow’s game.
Trevor Cooney (12.4 ppg/2.2 rpg) is the white guy that shoots threes for the Orange (continuing the tradition of McNamara, Rautins, Devendorf, Janulis, Cipolla, etc). Cooney got hot against Western Michigan in their second round matchup, scoring 18 points — connecting on four three-pointers against the Broncos. Freshman Tyler Ennis (12.8 ppg/5.5 apg/3.4 rpg) joins Cooney in the starting backcourt for the Orange. Ennis hit the floor running this season, living up to the hype of his recruitment. He is tremendous with the ball in his hands, has an insane assist rate of 32.3 and sports a 3.3:1 assist to turnover ratio. Although he may not have the all-around game of Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis has done more than enough to make up for the current 76er’s early departure.
Ennis, as you might recall, dropped this game-winner against Pitt earlier this year, which was pretty cool if you are into halfcourt buzzer-beaters.
6’9″ junior Rakeem Christmas (5.8 ppg/5.0 rpg) gets the start in the frontcourt alongside 6’8″ sophomore Jerami Grant (12.3 ppg/6.8 rpg). Christmas shows flashes of brilliance before regressing into a non-factor, sometimes during the same game. A McDonald’s All-American in high-school, Christmas has yet to reach the potential Boeheim expected upon his arrival to Syracuse. Still, he is a big body capable of scoring around the basket. Grant, a future first-round NBA pick, is the key to the Cuse zone. With long arms and exceptional athleticism, Grant is a headache defensively. He is active around the basket, Syracuse’s best rebounder on both sides of the court.
6’10” Baye Moussa Keita and 6’7″ Michael Gbinije (3.3 ppg) are Syracuse’s main contributors off the pine. Keita is a frail bigman, but, even at 6’10”, is an energy guy of the bench for Boeheim’s squad. Gbinije is a Duke transfer, still trying to find his place in the Orange rotation.
So many concerns going into this one:
- How does UD attack the Syracuse zone?
- Can Smith/Davis give UD anything at the PG spot, how long can UD afford to have Khari Price out of the game?
- Kavanaugh was a factor against OSU, how can he be effective against the size and speed of Cuse’s frontcourt?
- Can the Flyers get out in transition and get easy buckets?
- Will UD be able to get turnovers against a Syracuse team that is one of the best possession teams in the nation?
Those are a lot of question marks.
Dayton will have trouble stopping the Orange from scoring inside and I wouldn’t be surprised if foul trouble plaques Dayton’s front-line tomorrow night. Furthermore, unless UD can get out on transition consistently, the Flyers will likely struggle scoring against the Cuse zone. The game will be close, but I think Syracuse does enough to claim victory. Go Flyers.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.