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Syracuse students agree: Syracuse has done well, but winning today would be amazing.
Syracuse has exceeded most people's expectations of winning their play in game, and then beating TCU. Both John Brennan and I called this correctly of course. But now we both have them playing Michigan State and both of us have Syracuse's road ending in Detroit. Now you and I both know that big upsets happen in this Tournament. Just Friday night, while Syracuse was beating TCU, Virginia was taking it on the chin from 16 seed UMBC. Either way, Syracuse has a tall task if they want an upset because Michigan State on paper looks like a really good basketball team. Michigan State is deep, they have a very big low post presence (like UNC), and they rebound very well. If Syracuse is unable to rebound, they get into foul trouble, or turn the ball over and just can't score, this is going to be a 20 point loss. While I anticipate Frank Howard bouncing out of his shooting slump (4-18 from 3 in his last three games [that's bad for even being sick]), unless Syracuse makes like 15 three point buckets, they probably won't outscore a very good Michigan State team. And that's not to say Syracuse's defense won't hold Michigan State to 10 to 20 points below their season average, because they probably will. It's just that Syracuse won't be able to score enough to out pace Sparty. Syracuse will put up a fight, and maybe even have the game tied with around 8 minutes to go. But it will be a heavily pro-State crowd in Detroit, and I just don't think when the rubber meets the road here, that Syracuse can outlast Sparty. It will either be foul trouble, or Michigan State not being able to be stopped inside, or too many turnovers. Syracuse has to play a perfect game to win, and I just don't think we've seen them do it once against any team that has outranked them so much this season. It's been a great run, and a great season. Jim Boeheim got a shorthanded staff of kids to the NCAA Tournament and they won a couple games. They played better than most thought, and they overachieved on the year. I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to next year. But as for this year, pending a March Miracle, I'm taking Sparty by 13. This game will be broadcast on CBS / March Madness On Demand at approximately 2:40pm. Both John and I will be watching and we hope you enjoy the dancing while you can. It's been a fun ride with a lot of ups and downs. But, as always, GO ORANGE!

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Syracuse students agree: Winning one is great. Winning two is better.
The Orange handled their business in a tight one in Dayton against Arizona State in the First Four. While it was a rock fight, Syracuse got down seven points, which seemed like an insurmountable lead the way Syracuse was playing offense. But Syracuse got some stops, and a huge clutch shot from Battle, got the game close. And Chukwu, surprisingly, sealed the game with a few clutch free throws down the stretch to keep the Orange up just enough to win. As they say, survive and advance. And Syracuse did that. Now they head to Detroit to take on TCU. And we see a familiar face on the opposing bench in Jamie Dixon, who was the head man at Pittsburgh for a number of years of course. But this isn't Pittsburgh. TCU earned the 6 seed after finishing 21-11 (9-9 in the Big XII). While TCU is a good rebounding team, they are not the defensive power that some of Dixon's Pittsburgh teams were. And while TCU on average is a little taller than the other teams Syracuse faced in the ACC, Syracuse is still taller and therefore the rebounding could be even. The real threat is on the offensive glass, where TCU ranks 21st. Syracuse really needs to keep the rebounding close obviously and BOX OUT when they can. TCU is also allowing 37.9% from beyond the arc. If Syracuse can get hot, that will definitely open up the game for Syracuse on the offensive end, which as you know is not great for Syracuse. And with TCU being ranked 106th in defensive efficiency in the nation can only help the Orange. TCU has a good offensve, like ASU. If Syracuse can play well on defense, and do just enough on offense, you know... like every game, they should win. But again, the key is to play lockdown defense, get easy scores when they can, and prevent as many second chance points for TCU as possible. While Dixon knows how to beat the Zone, Syracuse is playing their best defense in several years, and they are the taller team. I think Syracuse will keep the rebounding close enough, and will be able to score on the weak defense of TCU to win the game, as I picked in my bracket on Tuesday. I'm taking the Orange by 6. This game is available at approximately 9:40pm on Friday night on CBS, or on the March Madness On Demand app. John will be in the home office. I'll most likely be out and about, enjoying the game with a couple friends so I'll be bitching about the officiating sparingly. Either way, it should be a fun one, as the Orange have overachieved on the year for what they are playing with. I'm good with it. But a win would be so sweet. Especially if Michigan State is upset again. GO ORANGE and again, sorry America.

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Syracuse students agree: Beating Arizona State would be a great bonus for the season.
The debate is over. Syracuse is in. Resumes mattered. And now Syracuse plays in the First Four against Arizona State in Dayton. Syracuse is coming off one of their longest stretches of the season where they didn't have a game, so the team that plays three players about 40 minutes every game should be well rested. That's good, because this is the NCAA Tournament and both teams will be hungry to survive and advance. At one point, Arizona State was highly ranked, coming off upset wins of now #1 Seeds Xavier and Kansas. But then they faltered, including against a team that employs a very similar defense in Washington. Washington was able to win a close game with the 2-3, holding Arizona State to just 64 points, well below their 83.5ppg average. Meanwhile, Syracuse's zone should be better with a taller big man in the middle in Chukwu. That being said, the NCAA Tournament is always a risky endeavor when fouls are precious considering that these refs aren't going to be from the ACC in all likelihood, and will generally call more fouls than you would see in a regular season game. However, Syracuse's only real task is to stop Tra Holder, the man named after a cafeteria supply. He leads the team in scoring and has the ability to go off. And while this ASU team is the kind of team that if Syracuse was playing them during the regular season, they may stop Holder and a random teammate could go off, that situation isn't as likely to occur under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament on their boring, neutral court. Look for Syracuse to prevent Holder from scoring early, forcing turnovers, and getting Syracuse off to a good start. I think this game will be similar to the Wake Forest ACC Tournament game, where Syracuse gets up, and the lead will expand and shrink on the various offensive ASU runs, with Syracuse winning by a fair margin to advance to Round 1. I think Battle will obviously contribute greatly in his first NCAA Tournament game, but also Howard will be sharp despite battling strep throat earlier this week. I'm taking the Orange over the Sun Devils by eight. This game is available nationally on TruTV at approximately 9:10pm, and on the March Madness app. Both John and I will be watching. What else would we be doing? If you missed our brackets, check them out here. GO ORANGE!

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Orange::44 Bracket Extravaganza 2018!

 Syracuse is in. We're pretty happy about it.
All is right with the world. Syracuse is in the NCAA Tournament, UConn and Georgetown aren't, and Gottlieb is butthurt that SU is dancing. Yup, a pretty good weekend here at Orange::44. As per tradition, both Orange::44 Correspondent John Brennan and I post our brackets, filled out with good old pen and paper, and digitized for your mass consumption. For the record, both John and I have Syracuse winning their play in game versus Arizona State, and beating the TCU team helmed by former Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon. Bet they wish they had him back. Anyway, we also have Syracuse ending in the Round of 32, being defeated finally by Michigan State. They better not lose to Bucknell, because otherwise Syracuse is going to have even more apologizing to America again. My bracket is up top. John's is below. John also did a fun "Revenge" bracket, which is all the way at the bottom. Obviously the play in picks don't matter, except the Syracuse one. Enjoy the games and GO ORANGE!

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Syracuse - North Carolina ACC Tournament Round 2 Preview

Syracuse students agree: Beating UNC would make Syracuse a lock.
Syracuse did what they had to do last night in beating Wake Forest. Now they have a bit of a tougher task to take on UNC in the 2nd round. Obviously UNC is coming in without playing a game the night before, playing ten players in general. Syracuse obviously plays mostly five, sometimes up to seven players. And on a night's rest, that may be an issue. And I want to emphasis MAY, because these kids are young, they got rest, and it didn't seem to bother Gerry McNamara in 2006, along with a bunch of other examples. Young kids can recover quickly. So in general I don't think that will be much of a factor. In general, I think that kind of thinking is along the lines of saying Syracuse doesn't play a tough out of conference schedule. It's old thinking that isn't really true these days. Either way, Syracuse is in a good place in terms of solid three point defense, and Chukwu especially stepped up and defended the line when he needed to head out from the paint due to the rotation. But Chukwu needs to get his hands up when players are inside, and the main issue was UNC could basically get a two point basket anytime they wanted for most of the game. If Chukwu can stay out of foul trouble, and earn blocks, Syracuse could very well pull the upset. Syracuse actually managed to keep the rebounding margin within four in their only other meeting this season, and they had the game tied with about three minutes to go. If Syracuse can dig deep and limit easy buckets in the paint from UNC, Syracuse has a real shot at the upset here. With the coming out party of Dolezaj and Chukwu last night, in theory, the UNC defense will have to actually defend against those two, which should allow Howard, Battle, and Brissett to get slightly better looks at the basket. And while it is clear that UNC is in the Tournament, Syracuse needs to win to get the lock of a bid. Syracuse has everything to play for, and UNC doesn't. And the fact that Syracuse had it close in the last meeting. If Syracuse can get some big shots, and contributions from Dolezaj and Chukwu in this game (any offense from the Center spot helps for Syracuse), and they keep the rebounding close, I like Syracuse in this game. If Syracuse can stop the easy buckets inside, and not turn the ball over the 18 times they did in the earlier game, I think they'll advance in more ways than one. I'm going to take a flyer and pick Syracuse to beat UNC by 5. This game is available at around 9:00pm (depending on the ending of the first game), on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN. Both John and I are in the home office again. If you're in Brooklyn tonight, enjoy it. GO ORANGE!

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Wake Forest - Syracuse ACC Tournament Round 1 Preview

Syracuse students agree: The conference tournament is a lot of fun... if you win.
Syracuse has to win tonight if they want to make it to March Madness. They split the series on the year with Wake Forest, but they will now have to take down the Demon Deacons if they wish for a chance to play next weekend. Syracuse must do a couple things, and I've been saying them all year. They have to score, and they have to defend. Syracuse was able to really lock it down against Clemson, a pretty good offensive team. The game was really only close because Clemson made a few REALLY deep 3s that SU wasn't really guarding because they were so far back from the line. And in the Syracuse win over Wake in the Dome, Wake Forest almost came back to win because they got hot from 3, specifically Bryant Crawford. He was 8-18 in the two games against Syracuse. While the defense never arrived in Boston, it was at least present at home in Syracuse. Hopefully, being the same state, Syracuse will find some defensive prowess in New York City. Somehow Syracuse won the game against a very good Clemson team by defending well, including Chukwu who had two ridiculous blocks on the same play, even after falling to the ground because he is basically an anvil on two sticks. Syracuse needs defensive play and for him to stay out of foul trouble if they wish to be in this game. Either Syracuse defends well and gets enough players involved to score buckets, or they go home and Syracuse plays in the NIT again. It's simple. I think based on the defensive performance against Clemson though, and the fact that Dolezaj and Brissett had a bit of a bounce back in the last game, I'm taking Syracuse to at least have a shot at the tournament by winning tonight. I'll take the Orange by 8 in front of a big time pro-SU crowd. This game is available on ESPN U / WatchESPN at 7:00pm. Win, and they advance to play North Carolina at 9:00pm tomorrow night. And a chance to dance. John and I are in the respective home offices. It's a magical week and I've seen some magic happen in a conference tournament. Tonight may be the start. Who knows? GO ORANGE!

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