The party is over. Now it’s time to dance.
Syracuse men’s basketball looks to make the most of its controversial NCAA tournament bid when the team takes on Arizona State Wednesday night.
Both teams are No. 11 seeds, having made the tournament as at-large bids. These spots are given to the strongest teams who did not earn a bid by either winning their conference during the regular season, or by winning their conference’s tournament at the end of the season.
This was Syracuse’s third straight year on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Last year the Orange were left out of a chance at a national championship, leading them to lose in the second round of the NIT tournament. The year before, SU made a miraculous final-four run ending in a loss to North Carolina.
This year, the Orange starts off against a struggling Sun Devils team. After opening the season 12-0 with victories over two No.1 seeds in this year’s NCAA tournament, Kansas and Xavier, Arizona State finished the season losing five of its last six, ending in a first round exit from the Pac-12 tournament.
ASU comes into Wednesday’s game with the country’s 14th ranked scoring offense, averaging over 80 points per game this season. This matches up with Syracuse’s 16th ranked scoring defense, which allows just under 65 points per game.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone may be exactly what is needed to stop Arizona State. The Sun Devils totaled a season-low 64 points when they lost to the Washington Huskies in early February. Washington runs a 2-3 zone defense thanks to their current leader, former SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins.
Both the Orange and the Sun Devils rely on their starting guards to be their main weapons. Syracuse boasts the duo of junior Frank Howard and sophomore Tyus Battle, while Arizona State starts two seniors in the backcourt, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II. Each team’s backcourt tandem averages about 35 points per game.
Syracuse and Arizona State last played in the 2009 NCAA tournament, where the Orange won 78-67 thanks to 21 points from former SU guard Eric Devendorf.
The winner of Wednesday night’s matchup will play No. 6 seed TCU. If Syracuse wins, a classic coaching rivalry would be renewed between Jim Boeheim and former Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon.
Syracuse vs. Arizona State is set to tip off at 9:10 PM on Wednesday. The game can be seen on TRU TV and heard on 88.3 FM.