(1) Syracuse vs. (16) UNC Asheville Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(1) Syracuse Orange
There are only one or two other teams in the country who can say that they were as strong as Syracuse was throughout the duration of the season even after their loss to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament. The Orange has simply been stellar from the outset thanks to their tremendous balance and coaching. Coach Jim Boeheim knows what it takes to win in the tournament and has a proven system that produces results. His team plays very well together as a unit. While Kris Joseph (14.2 points per game) and Dion Waiters (11.9) lead them offensively, they’re far from a two-man team as five other players average six or more points. They’re extremely unselfish and disciplined, ranking in the top five in assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin. Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense continues to give teams trouble. They’re very big in the interior. If this team has a weakness, it’s that they’re not as good at rebounding the ball as they should be given their size. They’re not a great three-point shooting team either, but they’re battle tested and capable of going on an extended run.
(16) UNC-Asheville Bulldogs
Winners of the Big South regular season and tournament championships, the Bulldogs enter the big dance with a talented and potent squad offensively who set a school record for wins with 24. Their entire starting five averages double-figures, led by Matt Dickey’s 16.5, J.P Primm’s 15 and Chris Stephenson’s 13. As a team, the Bulldogs score 81 a night, which was fifth in the nation during the regular season. They scored 75 against North Carolina State and North Carolina at the beginning of the season so they’ve proven that they are dangerous offensively, even against high-majors. The defensive end is where they run into problems. The Bulldogs gave up 71 points a night on 44 percent shooting from the field. Getting stops, or at least fighting to, and even a standstill on the boards is vital in the Bulldogs’ quest for an upset victory. It will be hard for them to get out and run offensively if they’re constantly taking the ball out of the net. Their all-time tournament record of 2-2 is deceiving as both wins came in play-in games.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Syracuse. There’s no way the Orange will be losing their second-straight game. The Bulldogs wil struggle against their zone defense.
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