Seeded third out of the East Region, the Syracuse Orange begin their quest for the national title tonight, as they take on the 14th-seeded Indiana State Sycamores in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
A third-round battle with either sixth-seeded Xavier or 11th-seeded Marquette awaits the winner of this tilt.
Indiana State is making just its fourth all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, posting a 5-3 record in the previous three showings. While the Sycamores' 20-13 overall record this season isn't overly impressive, the team enters this event on a roll after winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They have won eight of their last nine outings dating back to the regular season, and have held three straight opponents to 56 or fewer points.
The Orange won their lone NCAA Tournament title back in 2003 with the help of then-freshman Carmelo Anthony, and the program is 52-33 in 33 previous appearances in the "Big Dance". They have reached the "Sweet 16" the last two seasons, and head coach Jim Boeheim has the level of talent necessary to extend that run to three years. Boeheim has posted 33 20-win seasons as a Division I coach, and this year's group is 26-7 overall. Syracuse had won six consecutive games before falling to UConn in overtime in the Big East Conference Tournament.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Syracuse and Indiana State on the hardwood.
Overall this season, Indiana State is scoring just 66.5 ppg on 43 percent shooting from the field, numbers that certainly aren't going to scare Syracuse. Fortunately, the Sycamores have been able to limit opponents to 64.1 ppg on 40.3 percent field goal efficiency. Dwayne Lathan is the only double- digit scorer on the roster for ISU, as he is scoring 11.0 ppg despite his rather lackluster shooting. Carl Richard (9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Jake Odum (9.4 ppg) are both solid performers, but neither is sensational by any means. Taking a look back to the victory over Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game, Aaron Carter led the Sycamores with 15 points, and the team will benefit tremendously if he can be equally productive this evening.
Coach Boeheim gets tremendous leadership from senior forward Rick Jackson, as well as from juniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph. Jackson, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, is ripping down 10.6 rpg and has blocked 83 shots to go along with his 13.0 ppg. The leading scorer for the Orange is Kris Joseph who nets 14.4 ppg. Scoop Jardine, the club's point guard, adds 12.8 ppg, and he has handed out 190 assists while recording 52 steals. There is a fourth double-digit scorer in the fold for Syracuse, as Brandon Triche checks in with 11.3 ppg. Boeheim has always preached the importance of defense to his teams, and the Orange are limiting opponents to 63.3 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting from the field. They are generating 73.6 ppg at the offensive end and are pulling down 3.6 rpg more than the opposition. Expect Triche to have the ball in his hands at the end of tonight's game if it is close, as he is an 84.6 percent shooter from the foul line.
Fortunately for Syracuse fans, Triche won't be needed to close this one out, as the Orange are far superior to the Sycamores and will win without much opposition.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 84, Indiana State 67