NCAA Tournament Preview: #11 Syracuse vs. #6 San Diego State
Let the March madness begin.
The Aztecs have won 14 games in a row. Syracuse was edged out of the ACC Tournament during the Quarterfinals.
Indiannapolis, IN- The Round of 64 commences . . .
WHO: Syracuse (16-9, 9-7 ACC) vs. SDSU (23-4, 14-3 MWC)
WHEN: Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 9:40 p.m. EST
WHERE: Hinkle Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN
LISTEN: 1360-AM, 101.5-FM. | Cuse.com, TK99/105
SERIES RECORD: 2-0 Syracuse
ODDS: San Diego State -3
Here come the Aztecs! Finishing the season as AP No. 16, San Diego State has huge momentum with a firing-on-all-cylinders offense to complement its elite defense. The team took the regular season title and the Mountain West Tournament Championship. They are THE undisputed top of the Mountain.
Among their many three-point shooters, SDSU hosts two nasty arc aces. Senior Jordan Schakel and grad transfer “don’t call me sparkplug” Terrell Gomez are ice cold three-point scorers with mind bending skills. Schakel might have THE BEST catch-and-shoot ability in the NCAA, and if the mood catches him he’s good for 5, 6 even 8 rainbows. Gomez has 30-foot range with a unique rapid-fire release that augments his modest stature. When he’s hot he will wreck your world. It’s gonna rain in Indy.
Matt Mitchell is the Aztecs’ rock. Imagine, if you will, Charles Barkley gliding with the finesse of Patrick Swayze and the swagger of Apollo Creed. A quintessential three-range shooter, Mitchell fires at will from the arc; shoots mid-range jumpers, and scores easily in the paint, all while making nearly all of his free throws. He is the Mountain West Player of the Year, and he is en route to the NBA.
The Aztecs have remarkable depth and very few recognizable weaknesses.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is a one-man institution. He celebrates his 35th NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s the first coach ever to make the NCAA Tourney in SIX different decades- a feat that seems impossible.
On Syracuse’s roster, the Orange feature Junior Guard Buddy Boeheim, son of coach Jim Boeheim. Buddy is the hot hand, leading the team averaging 17.1 points per game. Illinois transfer forward Alan Griffin is dominant AND crafty, averaging 14.7 points 6.5 rebounds per game. Forward Quincy Guerrier is a rebounding virtuoso averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 boards per game. Freshman forward Kadary Richmond is an emerging star for the Orange averaging 1.8 steals per game.
The Orange 3-2 defense will give the Aztecs a real challenge. This is a long-time hallmark of Boeheim’s program, and when it is executed well it can be hard to beat. The Aztecs will have their work cut out for them, although they might just have the edge in this match with their ability to score in transition.
This may not be not a year for the ages for Jim Boeheim, but never count Syracuse out in March.
Why Syracuse Will Win
The Orange play strong defense that does everything possible to force steals and stymie the opponent. The Orange are tall and athletic, and they keep the ball moving. They collect boards and can prove totally menacing to opponents trying to make their three’s
The 3-2 defense is menacing and nobody does it as consistently as Syracuse.
When their shooting is on point, the Orange are tough to beat.
Why San Diego State Will Win
Syracuse is like a dear, old friend that we love. For the same reason that they were seeded 11 instead of having to play into (or miss) the Tournament this year, they will have some big challenges in this game. They are riding high on the performance seasons past but not this one.
The Orange choked against Clemson during their 78-61 loss back in early February. They struggled against Virginia, who play a game that is not too far removed from SDSU’s own game.
San Diego State led the Mountian West in three-point percentage; they are 8th in NCAA in scoring defense, and they endlessly and relentlessly attack the ball and drive the opposing teams to make mistakes and turnovers.
SDSU will have to be aggressive on rebounds. The offense has to be aggressive, the ball has to be managed very carefully. The Aztecs haven’t had double-digit turnovers in eight of their last eleven games, so this likely.
What’s Going To Happen
Jim Boeheim is going to put up a fiercely contested fight. Heck- he even has an “avatar” in the game: his own son Buddy.
Syracuse can win this game, but the Aztecs are prepared to overpower the Orange. San Diego State has too many tools in its arsenal, and too much depth on its bench. It has two of the nation’s most accurate shooters, and the Aztecs are simply hard to score against.
The game will be close, but the Aztecs will ultimately prevail and move on to the Round of 32.
Syracuse vs San Diego State Prediction
San Diego State 68, Syracuse 63