Editor’s note: The Fizz is rebooting its series from last year asking “What Went Wrong?” We will unveil a new reason every day this week on why SU’s March run fell incomplete.
Orange Nation has spent this week searching for answers after the Elite 8 loss last weekend, and so has The Fizz. One dynamic that has not been discussed enough is Syracuse’s draw. Back in early February, The Fizz listed Ohio State as one of SU’s 5 worst March matchups.
When the brackets were released sentiment was divided. Some felt SU had a relatively easy path to the Final Four. Others believed Ohio State, Florida State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt could provide major headaches for the Orange. Now that the East Region has played itself out, it’s clear SU was unlucky with its draw.
The Selection Committee released its decision before Fab Melo was declared ineligible, which soured many early predictions of Syracuse’s road. UNC Asheville boasted itself as the best 16-seed ever, and battled the Orange in an unexpected struggle. In the Round of 32, Kansas State could’ve given SU a big time scare. The Wildcats rebounded well and were unafraid to mix it up down low. However, KSU aided the cause by suspending big man Jamar Samuels just before game time.
The Big 10 had been the best conference all season long, and that trend continued with the league putting four teams in the Sweet 16 (the Big East had a quarter of the field as well). SU drew Wisconsin, a squad that had the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc and beat the zone. The Badgers stroked an insane 14 treys, but SU survived an instant classic and advanced to the Elite 8, where it would meet another B1G foe.
Syracuse’s placement in the East was a near certainty, but the 2-seed was not. Ohio State was clearly the most difficult matchup for the Orange of all the #2’s. Both Duke and Mizzou were embarrassingly knocked out by 15-seeds. That allowed Kentucky to get the 3-seed Baylor in the Elite 8. Meanwhile, had Michigan State survived Louisville, the Spartans would have faced 7-seed Florida for a chance at N’Awlins. Kansas is a solid 2-seed still playing, and would’ve been the next toughest draw for SU. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor could’ve done damage on the Orange, but the Jayhawks overachieved all season and simply don’t have the depth of Ohio State.
Once North Carolina suffered its injuries, Ohio State may have become next toughest opponent for SU in the entire tourney behind Kentucky. The Buckeyes had sharp shooters, waves of talent, experience in the best conference in the nation, and the inimitable Jared Sullinger. OSU was always a bad matchup for Syracuse and that was magnified by the absence of Fab.
In the Elite 8, Syracuse would’ve rather faced Baylor, KU, Florida, or a Louisville squad it beat twice. Eventually you have to play who’s in front of you. They don’t re-seed during the playoffs like the NBA. But after watching it unfold, there’s no question SU wasn’t helped by its 2-seed matchup.
Posted: Alex Plavin