March Madness Pick
Syracuse against Dayton may be the most interesting and hardest to predict Game of the day, and it opens play Friday. This line has moved back and forth, with it coming in as a pick ’em at times, but as of Tuesday sat with the Flyers as the favorite.
Not many are happy with the Orange making the Tournament considering they lost 13 Games on the year and five of their last six. On the positive side, they won a road Game at Duke and took down UConn and Texas A&M on neutral cOurts.
Dayton has the better seeding, but the Flyers are also struggling as of late, having lost Four of their last eight Games. In addition to that, three of their wins in that stretch have come by three points or less. After starting the season hot, they simply have not been playing well. Non-Conference wins over Iowa, Monmouth and Vanderbilt highlight the slate.
If this Game was decided via RPI, Dayton would easily win as it’s No. 21 against No. 68. Unfortunately for Dayton, that’s not how Games are decided. These teams met two years ago in the Tournament and the Flyers pulled off the 11-3 upset with a 55-53 win. Their defense limited Syracuse to 0-10 shooting from 3, while Dayton’s slashing and solid shooting from deep (7-of-16) was just enough.
A couple players remain on the roster from those teams, most notably Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije for ‘Cuse and pretty much Dayton’s entire starting lineup. Dyshawn Pierre, who scored 22 points in Dayton’s last Game, was the leading scorer for the Flyers in their win two years ago.
Similar to that Game a couple years ago, this is going to be a low-scoring, close fight. The difference this time around may be the shooting of Syracuse’s guards. Compared to that team two years ago, the Orange are much better at shooting the ball as their Four best scorers can all stroke it from deep.
Gbinije has turned into a knockdown threat from range with Cooney always a guy to watch out for. Then there’s still Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, who can both catch fire.
Dayton isn’t as good of shooting team and relies more on slashing, ball movement and penetration on offense. Still, they have Four guys that are always threats to hit double-digits. The main question will be how healthy Kendall Pollard actually is. Pollard was a Game-time decision for the A10 Tournament, but he managed to play in both Games, although didn’t provide much. He turned the ball over six times and had Four fouls in the loss to St. Joseph’s.
If Pollard isn’t himself, the Flyers will ride the trio of Charles Cooke, SCoochie Smith and Dyshawn Pierre. SCoochie became a household name a couple years ago when Dayton made its run as he was a spark off the bench. Now a starter, he can make even bigger of an impact. In the final two regular season Games, he finished with a combined 55 points, 11 boards and 10 assists. Basically, with the Flyers struggling, he took it upon himself to make things happen. Cooke is the team’s most consistent scorer and Pierre does most of his work inside the arc. At their best, all of those guys find open looks and the defense dominates. But that hasn’t really happened as of late.
A lot of people think the Syracuse zone is going to be the difference here, but that won’t surprise the Dayton players too much. They have the guys to penetrate and work in the middle, especially with Pierre. The Flyers haven’t really played well in the past month, and while the Orange have lost five of six, a lot of those are due to Schedule. This Game could come down to the final seconds, but if Kendall Pollard is up to the task, the Flyers get the edge.
Our Pick – Syracuse +1.5