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Buffalo was a massive success for the Orange and their fans.
Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament slightly slighted by the selection committee as Syracuse, one of the most consistent teams all season, dropped from a predicted third overall #1 seed to the forth. Additionally the comical selection folks decided to match Syracuse up with #16 Vermont, the team that knocked out the Orange posed for a nice run in 2005. But it didn't matter when either Vermont or #8 Gonzaga, Syracuse handled them both to advance to the Sweet 16 in Salt Lake City.
Vermont hit a three to start the game, but then Syracuse went on a 11-3 run. Then Syracuse didn't look back. Syracuse then jumped out to a 34-10 lead before Vermont went on two small runs to head into the half winning 37 to 25. Then Syracuse continued to grind at the smaller Vermont, as well as running their classic transition game. Syracuse's biggest lead was 27 in this game due to excellent shooting and all around good play. Syracuse ended up burying Vermont in a revenge game 79 to 56.
What was a much harder game on paper turned out to be anything but for the Orange in the second round. The 8th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs beat #9 Florida State in the first round to take on the Orange, and this was a team that had solid inside presence, good outside shooting, and a dynamic player in Elias Harris, to challenge Syracuse in this game, especially with Arinze Onuaku out. Gonzaga's dream scenario occurred with Rick Jackson picking up three fouls with 8:58 remaining in the first half and having to sit out the rest of the half while mostly untested DaShonte Riley covered the middle of the zone. He did that well, and Syracuse cruised. Syracuse struggled initially with Gonzaga using several back door cuts and lobs. Additionally Harris and Robert Sacre were excellent in the paint for Gonzaga. The Zags man defense was also a problem for Syracuse as they were settling on an awful lot of jump shots which is not the real strength of the Syracuse team. However they all basically fell. Wes Johnson also had a career scoring day, finally proving that his shooting hand is 100% better and showing why he was the Big East Player of the Year. Everyone played well in this game and Syracuse had a 32 point lead in the second half before relaxing and allowing Gonzaga to get some easy looks inside with some passive defense to prevent more fouls. Syracuse still won big though, finishing ahead 87 to 65, winning by 22.
Wes Johnson was clearly the best player in Buffalo this weekend. He finished with a combined 49 points on 17-28 shooting. He also pulled down 20 rebounds as well. Johnson also hit and impressive 7-11 from beyond the arc. His performance against Gonzaga was masterful with 31 points and 14 rebounds on an 11-16 shooting day. It almost seemed at many points like anything he threw up was going to find the bottom of the net. Anytime he was open, which was surprisingly often, he drilled his shot. He was clearly the dominant player we saw him be for Syracuse in the non-conference, and he easily could have carried this team to victory in a closer match on Sunday.
Andy Rautins also had a good weekend. While he played well against Vermont going 4-9, 3-7 from long range, and earning 11 points and eight rebounds, and six assists, he played even better against Gonzaga. Rautins nailed 7-13 shots, and 5-9 for three. It was a masterful shooting performance, hitting some off of screens, some open, and some with a quick trigger. You could tell the entire Syracuse team was having a lot of fun on the floor.
The guards also had a good weekend. Both Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine had good tournament games. Scoop Jardine has been dependable all season and the Tournament was no different. Jarine had 14 points on 6-9 shooting in the Vermont game, including a pretty nifty crossover dribble to the hoop that resulted in an And-1 for Syracuse. He also added nine points and three assists on 4-6 shooting against Gonzaga. Triche broke out of a bit of a slump by added ten points on 3-8 shooting, 3-5 from behind the arc against Vermont and 13 points on 5-9, 2-5 shooting.
Overall the statistics from this weekend are more than you could have hoped for. Syracuse shot 54.5% against Vermont and 54.7% against Gonzaga. Subsequently Syracuse showed some good defense as well, only allowing Vermont to shoot 34.8% and Gonzaga to shoot 41.7%. Syracuse was also excellent from behind the arc. Against Vermont they shot 10-22 (45.5%) and 12-25 (48%) against Gonzaga. Syracuse also hit their free throws. They made 9-11 (81.8%) and 17-23 (73.9%) respectively. Additionally the led both games in rebounds with 34 and 36 for a total of 70 on the weekend, while both other teams had 27. Syracuse also assisted on 24 of 20 made field goals against Vermont and 17 of 29 against Gonzaga. Syracuse also had 12 steals and ten blocks on the weekend. Finally, Syracuse committed 16 turnovers against VT and 13 against Gonzaga, both times committing more than their opponent.
Syracuse next takes on #5 seed Butler in the West Regional in Salt Lake City. Onuaku is still questionable to play in that game, but it didn't seem to matter against Gonzaga that he didn't play. Either way Syracuse will prepare as they will actually head out there today. But first we have a lot of lacrosse action to cover. Turn back in tomorrow for Lacrosse Weekly, covering both the Hopkins game and the Hobart game tonight.
But first, some highlights from the weekend in Buffalo. Myself with Big Juli Boeheim on Friday night before the Vermont game.
Me with Mr. Peanut. A gentleman and a scholar.
And finally, myself and Orange::44 Correspondent John Brennan at the game on Sunday as we watched Syracuse dismantle Gonzaga. If Syracuse plays like this the rest of the tournament it will be a very good off season.

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1 Responses to “NCAA Tournament Rounds 1 & 2 Postgame Reactions OR Revenge & Domination”

  1. # Blogger John Brennan

    Something about that picture of you and me from our seats at HSBC looks like we were photoshopped in or were in front of a green screen.  

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