Craig Hoffman is embedded behind enemy lines at the NCAA Tournament,
For a 16-seed that’s getting ready to take on an angry Goliath, UNC Asheville isn’t short on confidence. Senior J.P. Primm went as far to say the Big South Champions are the best 16-seed ever. The old adage is it’s not bragging if it’s true, and Jim Boeheim agrees the Bulldogs are a very good basketball team. Here’s what to watch for today:
- Follow The Fizz courtside all weekend on Twitter @OrangeFizz. Also look out for our video recap after the game. For more before the game, check out our video preview below.
The first thing you’ll unquestionably notice is how small UNC Asheville is. The starters are 6’1”, 6’2”, 6’3”, 6’4” and 6’5”. The Fizz would like to see Boeheim to play a lineup of MCW, K-Jo up top with Fair, Southerland and Christmas along the back line just for fun so that Syracuse would have the 5 tallest guys on the floor. Still with SU’s regular lineup, it’ll have no problem taking advantage of size by getting to the rim and shooting over the Bulldogs. If Syracuse, even with its rebounding struggles, doesn’t win the rebounding battle by at least double digits, something went horribly wrong. This is despite the fact UNC-A has outrebounded its opponents on the year. Seriously though, Scoop Jardine could post up their center. Enough said.
UNC Asheville may be small but it’s tough, it’s potent and it’s experienced. The offensive attack is led by two senior guards – Matt Dickey and Primm. Dickey is the Big South Player of the Year and a gunner. He hoisted 160 three’s this year and shot 38% while doing it. The Alabama native is the Bulldog’s 3rd all-time leading scorer and 5th all-time in assists. Primm runs the show and does so better than anyone in school history. He’s the school’s all-time leader in steals and assists. He was named 2nd team All-Conference, which many people found laughable considering he’s considered the 2nd best player in the Big South behind Dickey.
The Bulldogs are as experienced as they are short. Four of the five starters are seniors and the other is a junior. They played in the tournament last year with a happy to be here attitude. This year they’ve come to win. UNC-A’s also played a startling number of close games with BCS opponents this season. They played UNC to a 16-point game, lost to UConn by 10, NC State by 9 and Tennessee escaped by only 4.
Where the plan could go horribly wrong for UNC Asheville is its style is to get out and run. Nobody can race with Syracuse and that’s the area of the game where Fab Melo is missed the least. Dion Waiters plays at a speed that UNC-A hasn’t seen all year and his ability to finish at the rim at that high speed is unique. The Bulldogs say they won’t change their style. That is a suicidal game plan begging for Syracuse to go on a 40-0 run.
Prediction: Yes this is a very good 16-seed, but Syracuse has more than enough to get it done easily. Look for Jardine and Joseph to get back on track, and for SU to post up everybody and anybody on its undersized opponent. It stays close for a while, but SU eventually goes on a run and wins by 20+.
Posted: Craig Hoffman