Kansas State vs. Syracuse
After Thursday’s 72-65 win over UNC-Ashville, Syracuse Orange coach Jim Boeheim said that luck had nothing to do with the result. Many fans and bettors would beg to differ. LUck had everything to do with it as the refs blew 2 (arguably 3) key calls late in the Game while UNC-Ashville was within a single score. With that Game in the past and a scare up their spine, the Orange will face the Kansas State Wildcats. The Frank Martin coached team used a late surge to beat Southern Miss 70-64.
The Wildcats got a big time effort from junior G Rodney McGruder in the opening road of play. The Washington D.C. native dropped in 11 of 16 FG’s for a total of 30 points. Southern Miss had no answer for him. He averaged 15.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG during the regular season. Junior F Jordan Henriquez came through big time by draining 9 of 10 free throws. Not bad for a 6-11 big man. Henriquez averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG during the regular season.
If Syrcause is going to survive the upset minded Kansas State Wildcats then they need better play from senior G SCoop Jardine. Once a top scorer, Jardine just hasn’t been the same lately. He scored a combined 8 points in three Big East Tournament Games. That just isn’t going to cut it if his Orange team wants to make a run deep into the NCAA Tournament. One bright spot for Syracuse has been the sophomore Dion Waiters. The 6-4 G bombarded Cincinnati for 28 points in their last regular season Game before getting 12 important points against UNC-Asheville.
The Orange haven’t won more than two Tournament Games since Carmello Anthony took them to the promise land in 2003. They will be trying to advance to the Sweet Sixteen without the service of 7 footer Fab Melo. The big man was ruled academically ineligible before the start of the Dance. Melo led the team in rebounding at 5.8 RPG.
F Kris Joseph is going to be very important for Syracuse. The 6-8 senior F averages 13.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG. He has steadied the Orange in their past few Games. Joseph needs to get more help from the youngster C.J. Fair. The sophomore was 1-7 from the field on Thursday. They will have a hard time winning if he doesn’t bring his Game up a level for Saturday.
Kansas State knows how to beat a top team under difficult circumstances. They traveled to #10 Baylor during the regular season and stole a win. Three days later they went to #3 Missouri and thumped them by 10 points. Beating top teams is nothing new for the Wildcats and they will not be intimidated by the Big East regular season champs.
Senior F Jamar Samuels could have a huge impact for Kansas State. The 6-7 player gets 10.3 PPG and 6.6 RPG. Given the absence of Melo for Syracuse and the ppoor play of Fair, a big Game from Samuels might be a death knell for his foes. Upset?