Friday’s first NCAA tournament game (12:15 ET) will feature a 2014 round of 32 rematch. Just two years ago the Dayton Flyers defeated the Syracuse Orange 55-53 to advance to the Sweet 16. Dayton of course went on to the Elite 8 and shocked the country. The Flyers went into that game as heavy underdogs, however, the roles are reversed this time around as Dayton looks like the favorite to win. While both teams experienced struggles to end the regular season, they still possess a ton of talent. If either Dayton or Syracuse turn it up this March, they might make a deep tournament run.
Despite losing 5 of their last 6 games to end the regular season, Syracuse found a way to make the Big Dance. The Orange head into Friday’s matchup looking to pick up their 20th win of the season after finishing with a 19-13 overall record. Led by seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, Syracuse grabbed quality wins over teams like Duke and Notre Dame. Both Gbinijie and Cooney will be out for revenge after Dayton ended their championship dreams two years ago. Syracuse will definitely hold the size advantage over the Flyers in this one. If they can combine great shooting with a dominant glass performance, the Orange should find themselves in prime position to pull off an upset.
After beating VCU to clinch a share of the A-10 regular season title, Dayton fell to St. Joe’s in the conference tournament semifinals. The Flyers come into this one with a 25-7 overall record. While Dayton has not exactly played its best basketball of late, never count the Flyers out in March. Under coveted head coach Archie Miller, Dayton has won five NCAA tournament games in the last two seasons. If the Flyers want to continue that streak and beat Syracuse once again, they will need to handle the Orange’s zone. Assuming leaders Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Dyshawn Pierre heat up, Dayton should handle business and move on to the round of 32.
Grant’s Take: I fully expect this game to be a battle from start to finish. While Syracuse holds the size advantage, Dayton is fully capable of overcoming it. The Flyers will need threes to start falling if they want to win and make another tournament run. Syracuse likes to shoot threes and rebound. Dayton has shown inconsistency in those areas all year. If the Orange take advantage of Dayton in these spots, the Flyers could find themselves a first round exit. However, if Dayton makes their threes and rebounds well, they might just shock the world again this year with another magical March run. The winner of this game will take on the winner of Michigan State/Middle Tennessee State on Sunday March 20th.