It’s no secret that Syracuse, regardless of seeding, has a tendency to advance far in the NCAA Tournament, especially in recent memory. This year, however, the Orange were handed its lowest seeding in program history, but were able to acquire two victories before advancing to the Round of 32, where they will meet Michigan State. Despite being a Final Four favorite, the Spartans may have their hands full against the 11-seeded Orange.
Syracuse was able to fend off No. 11 Arizona State in its play-in game on Tuesday behind Oshae Brissett’s 23 points and 11 rebounds. Two days later, though being shadowed by No. 16 UMBC’s historic upset over No. 1 Virginia, the Orange defeated No. 6 TCU by five.
Throughout the season, defense has obviously been key for Syracuse’s success, whether it was tournament-worthy or not. Jim Boeheim’s group holds opponents to just 63.2 points per game, the 12th lowest figure in the nation. Its offense, however, has prevented Syracuse from finishing out games. The Orange post 67.0 points per game, the 315th best in the country and the second-worst in the ACC.
On the opposing side, Michigan State edged No. 14 Bucknell, 82-78, Friday night, though the scoreboard reflects a deceivingly tight score. It was surprisingly close, but Bucknell has proven it can be a threat in March throughout the season. Nonetheless, the Spartans prevailed behind 29 points and nine rebounds from Naismith finalist Miles Bridges.
The Spartans, who seemed snubbed by the Selection Committee when given a No. 3 seed, are undoubtedly one of the most polished teams in the country. MSU ranks among the top 40 in the nation in points per game (81.0), rebounds per game (40.8), assists per game (NCAA-leading 19.4) and points allowed per game (65.2). Not to mention, all five starters average 11 or more points per game. There’s very few holes in the entire program at the moment, so the Spartans are naturally ample favorites against Syracuse.
Michigan State clearly has the statistical edge over Syracuse, and perhaps any team in the country for that matter. The Spartans must impress on offense in order to win, otherwise Syracuse could make it a contest. On the flip side, if Michigan State comes out firing, Syracuse will have extreme difficulty coming back, especially considering its team isn’t wired to quickly go on game-altering runs. MSU can realistically win by double digits, but it is paramount that Miles Bridges and co. score early and often to avoid the upset.