Following Syracuse’s collapse against Louisville, encouragement was hard to find. Orange Nation lamented a lost opportunity and was still reeling after being blindsided by the Cardinals press Saturday night. But some of that optimism was restored with the release of the brackets, as SU will be the 4-seed against 13-seeded Montana to start off the NCAA Tournament. Montana won the Big Sky Conference (25-6) en route to its NCAA tournament appearance. The Orange was placed in the East region with Indiana (1), Miami (2) and Marquette (3).
Tipoff against the Grizzlies is 9:57 P.M. Thursday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The Orange will have to prepare for the late start, but more importantly understand what went so wrong in the 2nd half Saturday. There were a few glaring issues that must be fixed quickly to advance in the tournament.
- Maintain tempo of game: SU could not get its offense going in the 2nd half partly due to the Pitino Press that the Cardinals executed to perfection. By time the Orange brought the ball past midcourt, there usually only 25 seconds left on the shot clock. The Cardinals dictated the tempo and added substantial pressure on the defensive side of the ball to throw the Orange off. Montana may try to use a press style defense that can force turnovers and throw off momentum seeing how poorly SU handled it. Then again, no team in the country has the players execute it like UofL.
- Major Foul Trouble: James Southerland and Brandon Triche were on the bench early because of major foul trouble. Southerland is SU’s top 3-point shooter and go-to scorer when he’s hot. Louisville adjusted its defense so SU would shoot from beyond the arc when Southerland was on the bench. It worked, as SU doesn’t have any other consistent long range bombers. Syracuse has to avoid silly fouls, and Boeheim has to manage player’s minutes in order for the offense to stay consistent throughout the game.
- Carter-Williams’ Turnovers: Orange Nation knows MCW is just a sophomore, and prone to some mistakes. But for a player who may be a lottery pick, and considered a floor general of the team, Carter-Williams has been making too many mental mistakes to make it anywhere near Atlanta. MCW melted down near the end of the Georgetown game, and threw several erratic passes in the collapse against UofL. He has not improved his decision making towards the end of games. It could easily cost SU momentum and a game in the tourney. But if MCW slows down his play and penetrates the paint, the Orange will be in a lot better position to make plays and close out games.
One of the biggest silver lining to last week was the spectacular play by Syracuse in the Georgetown game and the first half of the Big East Final. Bench players such as Trev Cooney and Baye Moussa-Keita made a tremendous impact throughout the whole Big East Tournament. Baye haste solid at the free throw line and rebounding, and Cooney looks a lot more poised and confident. The Orange has the potential and prior game experience to make a dent in the bracket but needs to have the heart and effort seen in the Big East Tournament to prove it.
Posted: Zephan Mayell