Well Syracuse did it… again! The Orange pulled two upsets over 6-seed San Diego State and 3-seed West Virginia over the weekend. This is the third time in the last six seasons that SU has made it to the Sweet Sixteen as a double digit seed.
So now that Syracuse is there, can they keep it going? Well it’ll be difficult because SU’s next opponent Houston will have ample time to put together a game plan to beat the zone. Naturally, we became curious as to how Syracuse has done in the regional semifinal meeting, let’s examine.
2018 – 2-seed Duke 69, 11-seed Syracuse 65
We’ve discussed this game before, but the main takeaway from this meeting is that you don’t want to run into a fellow ACC team in March. The Blue Devils see the zone defense practically every year and are well equipped to beat it, especially with a week of prep.
In this contest the zone did its job and held Duke just 22/56 from the floor and 19% from beyond the arc. What killed SU was the 17 second chance points the Blue Devils added as well as 18 points off of turnovers.
2016 – 11 seed Gonzaga 60, 10-seed Syracuse 63
SU used a late 9-3 run in the closing minutes to down the Zags. Michael Gbinije scored the game winning bucket with 22 seconds left. The Bulldogs shot 43% from the floor and 8-21 from three, but only got to the free throw line for five shots.
2013 – 1 seed Indiana 50, 4 seed Syracuse 61
Michael Carter-Williams scored a career high 24 points and SU locked down a very good Hoosier team with Victor Oladipo running the show. IU was 16-49 from the floor (33%) and 3-15 from beyond the arc (15%). Syracuse also forced 19 turnovers and scored 13 off of them.
2012 – 4 seed Wisconsin 63, 1 seed Syracuse 64
This was a very competitive game as the score would indicate and the Badgers actually played very well against the zone. Wisco was 43% from the field and 52% from deep. The problem is SU played well against a UW defense that entered the game allowing opponents to shoot just 38.5% from the floor. CJ Fair led Syracuse with 15 points, Dion Waiters added 13 off the bench.
2010 – 5 seed Butler 63, 1 seed Syracuse 59
This was the Bulldogs cinderella year but looking back, this game is a bit of a head scratcher. Butler shot 40% from the floor and just 6-24 from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs did get to the line quite a bit, 21 free throws, but that alone doesn’t beat the 2-3 zone. On the other hand the Syracuse offense was stagnant and had just three scorers in double digits.
2009 – 2 seed Oklahoma 84, 3 seed Syracuse 71
This time it was Syracuse that struggled to shoot. SU was 45% from the floor and just 29% from three. Oh and Blake Griffin went for 30 and 14 so there’s that. OU also got to the free throw line for 18 attempts. Jonny Flynn was the only Orange that could muster up any offense, he was the only SU starter to hit double figures with 22 points.
So in the last ten or so years, Syracuse is 3-3 in Sweet Sixteen games. That’s not bad, especially considering one of those losses came to Duke. SU has had a lot of success recently in these games against teams that don’t really play against a zone defense all season.
Houston is a very good defensive team, top 10 in the country in most categories. So if Buddy Boeheim and the Syracuse offense goes cold, the defense will need to pick them up. As you can see a lot of these games are low scoring.
The key will be forcing the Cougars into bad shots and rebounding the basketball, HU is also one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. However, Syracuse has clearly had success in the last decade in these exact games, we’ll see if that continues on Saturday night.