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2019 NCAA tournament preview: Syracuse

Syracuse Orange: 20-13, 10-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference

Head coach: Jim Boeheim (43rd season)

Key players: Tyus Battle (17.2 PPG, 1.2 SPG); Oshae Brissett (12.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG); Paschal Chukwu (5.4 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

Season recap: Syracuse’s high point of this year came Jan. 14 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, when the Orange upset the top-ranked Blue Devils 95-91 in overtime. Everything seemed to click for Syracuse, and it left many Duke fans wondering if Jim Boeheim’s crew was a legitimate threat in the ACC. 

Not to dismiss the Orange’s victory against Duke, but it took uncharacteristically strong performances from each of Tyus Battle, Elijah Hughes, Frank Howard and Pascal Chukwu to narrowly topple the undermanned Blue Devils. Syracuse did not thrive in the same manner against other marquee opponents, and went just 3-7 against then-ranked opponents in the regular season.

The Orange’s game looks familiar—a strong 2-3 zone defense, a slow pace and a plodding offense. Boeheim returns his five most-used players from last season’s Sweet Sixteen team, and this experience will certainly be useful this March. But they could not get past the Blue Devils after winning their first game in the ACC tournament.

How they make a run: Syracuse lulls its opponents to sleep, going on a similar deep run as in 2018. In the 11th-seeded Orange’s postseason stretch, no opponent broke 70 points.

How they falter: An inefficient offense proves to be the Orange’s downfall, and the shots simply do not fall for Syracuse. With a slow pace and an offense outside the top-50 in efficiency, the Orange have a narrow margin for error and struggle to put up points against another capable defense.


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