There are two different Trevor Cooneys. The first is the one who shows up in non-conference games, and the other is the one who struggles in conference games and against top ranked opponents.
Now that No. 3 Syracuse has advanced past the second round with a 77-53 win over No. 14 Western Michigan, it has to prepare for Saturday‚Äôs game against No. 11 Dayton, which upset No. 6 Ohio State¬†on Thursday¬†afternoon.
This was the non-conference Cooney. He made 50 percent of his shots, including going 4-of-8 from deep. Cooney finished with 18 points. It is absolutely vital to keep in mind that Western Michigan was one of those lesser opponents. Obviously it‚Äôs a good team because of how it ended up in the NCAA tournament, but this is no challenge for Syracuse.
Cooney was one of the best shooters at the beginning of the season, which was against non-ACC teams. Then conference play came and he had a few decent games, but was completely absent when Syracuse was in its losing funk at the end of the season, and in the ACC tournament.
With Dayton‚Äôs win over Ohio State, that gives Syracuse more of an advantage because it‚Äôs against still a lesser opponent.¬†Cooney should be able to show up to this game and not just have a break out game, but one that will be a boost for his confidence moving forward.¬†Ohio State could have easily won this game. With a legendary program that the Buckeyes have, they know what‚Äôs important in setting up the game plan. Stopping Cooney from open looks on the wing would be one of those important parts of the entire game plan. This doesn‚Äôt mean Dayton will leave him open, but it won‚Äôt know exactly how to keep him close.
Looking back, this really looked like a non-conference game just because of how well everyone played. C.J. Fair finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Tyler Ennis had 16 points and six assists in his NCAA tournament debut. Syracuse needs a few of these easy games to get a boost of motivation. If the Orange can get a big dose of motivation early in the tournament, it could be one of those programs that rushes toward the end of it all.
Some people could say Syracuse plays in a difficult region in terms of competitive opponents. There are so many talented teams in the southern region, but Syracuse doesn‚Äôt have to win all of its games to have a better shot at going deeper. Like previously mentioned before, No. 6 Ohio State falling means Syracuse has the opportunity to play a lesser opponent and come out with what could be a more-likely win.
Syracuse and Dayton battle it out Saturday, March 22 at 7:10 pm, with the winner moving to the Sweet 16.
Posted by: Austin Pollack