Welp, despite what many experts thought (looking at you Doug Gottlieb), Syracuse is still dancing. It hasn’t exactly been pretty, but SU now meets Michigan State in the second round of the tournament Sunday afternoon after grinding out a victory over TCU and Jamie Dixon.
So is there any chance Syracuse keeps the good times rolling against Michigan State?
Well, we all know Tom Izzo is really good in March and playing this game virtually in Michigan State’s backyard in Detroit doesn’t help matters much. Plus, there’s no denying the Spartans are going to have a huge size and talent advantage.
Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr.
These are the two names you need to know. Both Bridges and Jackson Jr. are likely going to be lottery picks this summer. Bridges, a 6-7 forward from Flint, MI, would’ve been a lottery pick last year but surprisingly decided to come back even though Coach Izzo reportedly advised him not to. He leads the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game and is coming off a dominant 29- point performance in MSU’s first round victory over Bucknell.
Jackson Jr., on the other hand, is a freshmen who was also ranked inside the top-10 in his recruiting class like Bridges was two years ago. Standing 6-11, Jackson is your prototypical modern stretch-five. Not only does he have a knack for blocking shots and scoring down low, but Jackson Jr. can also spread out a defense and bury the triple. The five-star freshmen is shooting almost 40 percent from deep this season. With range like that and his athleticism, many NBA scouts are comparing his game to current Bucks center Thon Maker.
Michigan State has had a lot of good forwards through the years. Recently, Draymond Green and Adrien Payne come to mind. However, this might be the best pairing Izzo has ever had. That being said, it’s hard to imagine Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe keeping them in check without getting into foul-trouble in the process.
However, let’s not forget essentially the same thing could’ve been said about the Gonzaga-Syracuse sweet 16 matchup just two years ago. The Zags also had a fearsome frontcourt duo of Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer and every expert just assumed the two of them would force Syracuse’s limited roster into foul trouble and manhandle the Orange on the glass.
Instead, Gonzaga settled for too many threes against the 2-3 zone (The Zags went 8-21 from long range) and didn’t capitalize on the size advantage and contrary to what most expected, SU kept on dancing.
Force MSU To Settle For Threes
That’s exactly what SU has to do again. In order to pull of the upset, Syracuse needs to prevent the entry-pass, watch the backdoor lob, and do its best to keep the Spartans off the offensive glass. They did all that against Arizona State and TCU, but unfortunately Michigan State is going to be a whole different animal.