The bracket is set and the Orange is headed out west to Salt Lake City for their opening round matchup against Baylor. As an 8 seed, it’s their highest entrance into the tournament since it was a three seed back in 2014.
This is the second ever time the Orange has landed as an 8 seed. The only other instance was in 1999 when SU lost to Oklahoma State in the first round of the tournament.
Baylor is the nine seed out of the Big 12 and is making its first tournament appearance since 2017. They finished a surprising fourth in the conference after being projected to finished second to last. The Bears went 19-13, but ended the season on a four game losing streak, albeit against relatively opponents. They lost to the Big 12 regular season champ Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Big 12 tournament champion Iowa State. The Bears lost their leading scorer Tristan Clark back in January, but powered back with a strong showing in conference. Baylor is now led by Yale transfer Makai Mason, who does have tournament experience with his former team. Ironically, Mason used a 31 point performance to take down none other than Baylor before losing to Duke in the second round.
Baylor and Syracuse have one common opponent this season: PAC-12 champion Oregon. But there is a major difference in their results. SU lost to a Ducks team that featured one of the top players in the country in Bol Bol. Baylor was lucky enough to beat a Bol-less Oregon team after he went down with a season-ending injury.
The Bears’ best wins this season came against against Iowa State twice and Texas Tech, while their worst losses came all at home against Texas Southern, Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State.
This will be the Orange’s third ever meeting against the Bears. Syracuse is 2-0 all-time with wins in 2006 in the Dome and in 2013 in the Maui Invitational Championship.
Rest of the Region
Syracuse is in the West Region, which is ruled by the 1 seed Gonzaga, who the Orange almost undoubtedly would face if it wins. Outside of that, the region has a couple of other very intriguing teams. Marquette and Murray State face off in the classic 5/12 seed matchup. Florida State carries their strong showing in the ACC Tournament into the region, but they have to get past a Vermont team that just won the America East in dominant fashion. Towards the bottom of the bracket, trendy preseason champion pick Nevada checks in as a 7 seed, while Michigan and Texas Tech are the 2nd and 3rd seeds respectively.
Syracuse’s defense and Tyus Battle’s return carries them to a first round win over the Bears, but Gonzaga’s blend of size and skill is too much to handle in the second round.