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The Fizz’s Crystal Ball: Staff Predictions for Syracuse’s Road to the Final Four

The brackets are out, Syracuse has learned its draw. The only thing left to do is win each game put in front of it. Here’s The Fizz’s staff predictions for the Orange in the East region. Of the eight bracketologists, five pick SU to get to the Final Four, two tab Ohio State to knock off the Orange in the Elite 8, and one says Syracuse bows out in the Sweet 16. Soak up The Fizz.

D.A.: Syracuse over FSU to win East Region

While there’s sure to be brackets blown up across the country, the East should stay relatively calm. SU beats UNC Ashville by 35, and cruises into the Round of 32 against a plucky K-State squad. The Wildcats don’t have the firepower to run against the Orange, and SU kicks them by 12 points – 70-58 to head to Boston. At the TD Garden, Syracuse will have a dominant home floor advantage. At least half the building will be dressed in Orange, and the loudest of any fan base. SU matches up against a pesky Wisconsin team in the Sweet 16. I’m thinking Harvard has one win in it, so I’m taking the Crimson over Vandy on Thursday. Unless Montana takes out Wisconsin, the run will stop there. The Badgers battle the Orange to a grueling first half, tied at 32. But in the second, Syracuse finds its scoring and transition game. The Orange pull out a 68-62 win to set up a battle with Florida State for the region title. The ‘Noles take out the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16, and FSU’s grit keeps the Elite 8 close for the entire game. But Scoop and K-Jo knock down huge jumpers in the final two minutes, and SU cuts down the nets in front of 12,000 SU fans with a 75-71 win.

Big Steve Neikam: Syracuse over FSU to win East region. 

This region isn’t a cakewalk, but it could be worse (ask John Calipari). After UNC Ashville, the Orange will face a tough Kansas State team. While the Wildcats rebounding prowess is cause for some concern, they don’t have the firepower to keep up with SU. I see Wisconsin as the Sweet 16 matchup, and this round will be the biggest road block on the way to New Orleans. The Sweet 16 is traditionally the round that gives Jim Boeheim the most trouble, and this year he will either see a disciplined Wisconsin team that will make USF’s pace seem fast. The red-hot Commodores would be tough as well, but Vandy has a history of early exits, and I see that continuing. The Orange will be too athletic for Wisconsin and the 2-3 will stifle Bo Ryan’s swing offense. Florida State will use it’s defensive strength to knock off Ohio State to get to the Elite 8, and SU will be in for a dog fight with the Seminoles. The Noles guards can’t match the athleticism of the Orange’s, and Dion Waiters will lead a patented SU run to put the Orange over the top in this game and send it to New Orleans.

Dave Van Moffaert: Ohio State over Syracuse in Elite 8. 

The East region is not as tough for the Orange as some people believe. The first round will be a breeze against UNC Ashville. I have Southern Miss advancing against Kansas State to meet SU in the second round. The Golden Eagles don’t have the size to compete with the Orange for a full 40 minutes and SU should have a cakewalk into the sweet 16. There the Orange will run into some trouble. I have Wisconsin beating Harvard to advance to Boston to matchup up with Syracuse. The Badgers are the team that can slow the game down, and neutralize the fast break ability of the Orange. Jordan Taylor is a stud and can carry the Badgers, but there are times when the boys from the B1G go into the doldrums and cannot score. Every team goes through scoring droughts, but Wisconsin goes into them more than it should. SU can take advantage and can easily pull off a 10-0 run and push this game out of reach.

The real trouble comes in the Elite 8 for the Orange. I have Ohio State knocking off Cincy for an OSU/SU final in Boston. As I wrote earlier this season, Ohio State is one of the toughest matchups for SU. The Buckeyes are balanced with talent in the frontcourt and backcourt. William Buford and Aaron Craft are smart guards who make good decisions and can find holes in the zone. Buford can stroke it and Craft is a very good defender who can slow down the potent Orange guards. Sullinger is an undersized power forward but he is a bull and can score against Fab. OSU will go inside then kick it out for threes. Cincinnati did this well in the Big East tournament and that proved to be the kryptonite for SU.

Thad Matta is a very good coach and will be prepared to go against Boeheim’s 2-3. Don’t be surprised if Matta runs some zone himself against SU. I have the Buckeyes beating Syracuse and advancing to the Final Four.

Kevin Fitzgerald: Syracuse over FSU to win East region.

Syracuse is finally ready to dance, and, the 1-seed will be tested often on its way to the Final Four. Syracuse rolls over 16-seed UNC Ashville. You can’t lose to a team you’ve never heard of, right? Kansas State edges Southern Miss in the 8/9 matchup, and KSU will give the Orange the most difficult second round test of all the 1-seeds. Nonetheless, Syracuse sneaks by and advances to the Sweet 16. SU will face fifth-seeded Vandy, which finally makes it out of the starting gate this year after three straight first round exits. The Commodores will end 12-seed Harvard’s Cinderella run early. Vandy beats up on #4 Wisconsin in the second round, and proceeds to play Jimmy B’s squad. In the bottom half of the bracket, 2-seed Ohio St steamrolls Loyola, and nearly falls to 7-seed Gonzaga, who bounces WVU in the first round. Insert Bob Huggins frown. Three-seed Florida State cruises past St. Bonaventure to square off with 11-seed Texas, as 6-seed Cincy is still hungover from laying an egg in the Big East championship game. The Seminoles are hot and trash the Longhorns, setting up Syracuse-Vanderbilt, Ohio State-Florida State in Boston.

Vandy will give SU its toughest test on the road to New Orleans. Syracuse advances though, and takes on the Noles, who bounce Sullinger and company in a year the Buckeyes won’t  live up to their great expectations. FSU with its run and gun pace pushes SU to the brink, but runs out of steam. The Orange prevails, and punches its ticket to the Final Four.

Craig Hoffman: Syracuse over Ohio State to win East region

The Sweet 16 is where every SU fan knows Orange hopes and dreams traditionally go to die. This year could very well be the same case as Syracuse’s nightmare matchup awaits. The last thing the Orange wants to see is a team with multiple shooters, senior leadership to match its own, an elite rim protector and a team that plays zone. That’s Vanderbilt who, oh by the way, just beat Kentucky for the SEC Title and is the 5-seed in the East. Unlike last year, the Orange gets out of the first weekend and then faces either the ‘Dores (if they survive the brainiest matchup ever against Harvard) or Wisconsin. I think SU passes that test despite the tough matchup and then faces a very dangerous Ohio State team for a shot at New Orleans. Buckeye PG Aaron Craft might be the best on ball defender in the country, and watching he and Dion Waiters duel would be fun. Every test SU has cared about, it has passed: the Orange blew out Seton Hall for revenge, beat Louisville for its seniors and wrecked UConn’s Gameday fun. Syracuse pulls it out and The Fizz gets to enjoy a weekend full of etouffe and basketball.

Andrew Kanell: Ohio State over Syracuse in Elite 8

On the surface, the East Region is the toughest of the four. It contains trendy conference champions Florida State and Vanderbilt, both of whom are riding the wave of conference tourney runs. One positive for Syracuse is that there are no Big East members to be found in close proximity to the Orange. SU can see an in-conference foe by the Elite Eight at the earliest, and it’s likely both West Virginia and Cincinnati will be gone by then.

Props to the selection committee for avoiding yet another Syracuse-Vermont showdown in the first round. UNC Asheville isn’t ideal because it has played some tough non-conference games, but the Bulldogs aren’t really cause for concern either. Unlike last season, SU will have no problem getting to the Sweet 16 (because this year no scrappy Big East teams stand in the way). Syracuse will outclass Southern Miss in the Round of 32.

Vandy is receiving lots of love at the moment, but don’t forget about Wisconsin. The Badgers are the opposite of flashy, yet you could say the same thing about Cincinnati. Ugly, slower, basketball tends to be a bad thing for a Syracuse team that thrives at a fast pace of play. Vanderbilt has more talent, but perhaps Wisconsin poses more of a matchup problem for the Orange.

Either way, here’s predicting SU regains some confidence after a solid week of practice and a pair of wins in Pittsburgh. That’s where I see Syracuse falling to Ohio State. How many times this season has Fab Melo faced a center that’s better than him? Maybe once, if that. And we all know how much worse Jim Boeheim’s team gets when Fab is either out of the game or ineffective. Jared Sullinger has the ability to destroy SU’s sophomore big man, which could turn Syracuse into an even worse rebounding team than it already is. Defense has carried the Orange all season, but the Buckeyes may have enough weapons to make SU look just average on ‘D’.

Alex Plavin: Syracuse over FSU to win East region

Not an awful draw for Syracuse. Mizzou and Kansas would have been worse matchups than Ohio State as the 2-seed. Syracuse cruises by UNC Asheville in the first round and draws K-State in the second. This is a tough matchup for SU because KSU is a great offensive rebounding team. This game actually ends up being pretty close, but Syracuse will have too much for the Cats. Many are talking about Vanderbilt to the Sweet 16, but Wisconsin is the big threat to the Orange. The Badgers are well coached on offense, very disciplined, and can hit the three. They can also get SU out of rhythm on offense, not allowing the transition that SU needs. SU finds a way to survive, and gets FSU in the regional final. This FSU team has beaten both UNC and Duke, and it a solid team all around. SU will survive the ‘Noles to reach New Orleans. However, I wouldn’t be stunned to see SU go out in the regional in Boston.

Upset specials: I do like West Virginia playing essentially a home game in Pittsburgh to beat Gonzaga in the 7-10 matchup. I’m also taking Texas, a very underrated team playing well recently, to knock off Cincy in the 6-11 matchup.

Jake Moskowitz: Wisconsin over Syracuse in the Sweet 16

Syracuse wins handily in the first round over UNC Asheville, but will face a scary wake-up call as early as the Round of 32 against Kansas State. The Wildcats pack a tough bunch that has the endurance to play hard for 40 minutes, something Doug Gottlieb has suggested Syracuse can’t do.  In the end, the Orange holds off the Wildcats, simply because K-State doesn’t have the dominant long-range game needed to beat Syracuse. Come the Sweet Sixteen, the Orange will be headed back to the Salt City after a disappointing loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers come out on top of SU because they’re on a tear right now, even after a hard-fought loss against 1-seed Michigan State. Wisconsin has won 4 of its last 5, including quality wins over Ohio State and Indiana – both teams equal to or higher seeded than it.

Teams studying film on Syracuse know that they need good long range shooters and an ability to take away the up-and-down game to win against the Orange. Wisconsin has both. While it’s undercutting many high expectations for SU, I don’t think the ‘Cuse makes it past the Sweet Sixteen.

 

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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