(1) Syracuse vs. (8) Kansas State Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(1) Syracuse Orange
Although the Orange are still alive, the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs almost deserve more credit for the fight that they put up against a team that a lot of people have picked to get to the Final Four and compete for a national championship. For the better part of that ballgame it looked like we could be in store for the first ever upset of a number one seed by a 16 seed. In the end, though, the Orange depth got them into the Round of 32. Four different players scored double figures, with James Southerland’s 15 off the bench leading the way. Freshmen center Rakeem Christmas contributed six points, seven rebounds and two blocks, an encouraging effort as he takes the place of the suspended Fab Melo. Still, there’s no denying that the big fella was missed. Their ability to control the tempo is lessened without him. The outlook on the Orange is nowhere near as promising with him done for the year, especially with a tough matchup ahead against Kansas State. Another balanced effort is a necessity for the Orange to survive.
(8) Kansas State Wildcats
Even with Rodney McGruder playing as well as he has all season with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists, the Wildcats found themselves in a fight against a Southern Miss Golden Eagles team that would just not go away. In need of a late spark, the Wildcats received one from freshman point guard Angel Rodriguez. Rodriguez scored three points in the first 38 minutes, but scored 10 during the final two to help keep the Wildcats alive with a 70-64 victory. Jamar Samuels was quiet with just one point and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. They’ll need more from him in order to get past the Orange in the Round of 32. The Wildcats are also going to have to be very precise with how they attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone. They cannot settle for threes, especially if they shoot as poorly as they did against the Golden Eagles when they went 2-12 from distance. Instead, they have to aggressively attack and force their way to the free throw line 25+ times. Against the Golden Eagles they made 34 trips to the charity stripe.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Syracuse. It’s too easy to jump off of the Syracuse bandwagon after they were underwhelming against UNC-Asheville, but we’re going to stick with them and bet on them coming together to top the Wildcats in the Round of 32.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!