Most of the staff correctly picked Syracuse’s opening round win against Arizona State, but it’s not as split this time around.
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Tyler Aki: TCU 71, Syracuse 67
Just when Jim Boeheim though he was out of his nightmares, there he is. Jamie Dixon returns to haunt the Orange with a much improved TCU squad. While the Horned Frogs are without their best player in Jaylen Fisher, there are a lot of other aspects that make TCU dangerous. Their ball movement should uncomfortably shift the zone. This game could feel eerily similar to the first UNC game this season or the previous Wisconsin games from the past two years. The only way SU pulls this one off is if Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett combine for more than 65 points.
Drew Carter: TCU 73, Syracuse 68
I picked against Syracuse in the First Four, so let’s run it back and hope it leads to the same result in the First Round. TCU presents an even more delicious strength-vs.-strength battle than Arizona State did; the Horned Frogs are one of a handful of teams with a more potent offense than the Sun Devils’. After a blistering 12-0 start, TCU stumbled to the finish line — sound familiar? — and enters the Tourney having dropped 11 of its past 20, due largely to point guard Jaylen Fisher’s season-ending knee injury. But the Horned Frogs still move the ball as well as any team in the country (18.8 assists per game, 2nd in the nation), a Jamie Dixon hallmark and the reason why his Pittsburgh teams gave the Orange nightmares. They also bury an even 40 percent of their 3-point attempts and feast on the offensive boards, so I’m not sure the normally-stingy zone can slow them down. That being said, Oshae Brissett went radioactive against ASU, and the Canadian freshman could certainly pair with Tyus Battle to will the Orange to victory for the second consecutive round. I just don’t think this is the right matchup.
David Edelstein: Syracuse 67, TCU 62
Riding a high from its win over Arizona State, Syracuse will take the ‘W’ in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. We know that TCU is the higher seed in this matchup, but when it comes down to it, Syracuse has the advantage. TCU’s strength this season has been its offense, with five players (four are main starters) scoring double digits. But SU’s solid defense has been a key all season long, and it will prove to be tough once again. The Horned Frogs’ defense, on the other hand, has not been the greatest. But while one of Texas Christian’s defensive weak spots is allowing three point shooting, Syracuse is not a three point shooting team (ranking 315th in the NCAA… which I guess is fitting for the area…). In the end, defense wins this one. TCU has experience from winning the NIT last year, but come on now—this is the big dance.
JD Raucci: TCU 63 Syracuse 56
Boy, who would have thought we’d be talking about a second game in the NCAA Tournament for this Syracuse team. I mean, sure, it’s technically only a first-round matchup, but this is still a big overachievement for this Orange team. Unfortunately, I think the run stops here. In a lot of ways, TCU is very similar to Arizona State. The Horned Frogs score the ball a lot. They have four guys averaging double figures. They are a top-20 scoring offense at 83 points per game. With a lot of those factors mirroring the Sun Devils, you’d figure you’d see a similar outcome as Wednesday night. However, two things separate ASU and TCU. The first is that the Horned Frogs’ scoring attack is very frontcourt-centric. Kenrich Williams (6’7″) and Vladimir Brodziansky (6’11”) are the leading scorers for TCU and scoring bigs have become a problem for SU throughout the season and have gotten Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe into foul trouble and I think Williams and Brodziansky will be big problems for the Orange. The other thing TCU has going for it is the man stalking the sidelines. Jamie Dixon coaches the Horned Frogs and we all know how badly he has beaten down on SU over the years. He simply knows how to break the Orange and Jim Boeheim. In the end that coaching advantage plus the inside scoring are too much for the Orange and the run ends in the Motor City.
Jonathon Hoppe: TCU 68, Syracuse 59
As exciting as it is to have the Orange in the tournament, its run comes to an end on Friday against the Horned Frogs. It’s so simple, it feels dumb to type: the ability to put the ball in the basket will hold Syracuse back in this one. At the end of the day, SU doesn’t score enough to compete with some of the better teams in the NCAA Tournament. Is it possible? Sure. Do I think it happens? No. Oh, and Jamie Dixon’s familiarity with Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone won’t help the Orange in this one. At this point, I think Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard all have to be on their games for the Orange to have a chance. Considering that hasn’t happened much lately, I’ll take TCU to win rather comfortably.
Tim Leonard: TCU 70, Syracuse 63
Syracuse got the job done Wednesday night and survived and advanced as they say. But, let’s face it, the Orange didn’t play its best. Frank Howard didn’t look like himself, Tyus Battle went cold for a good chunk of the game and Paschal Chukwu frankly was non-existent on the offensive end until some big time free throws late. All that can’t happen again against TCU. The Horned Frogs have more interior offensive weapons and move the ball in much more of a zone-busting fashion. With that in mind, Jamie Dixon’s bunch should force SU into some early foul-trouble and take control in the first half. This Syracuse team will put up a fight like it has all season in the second half, but at the end of the day the offensive talent gap will be too much to overcome.