Preview: Asheville vs. Syracuse

Where: CONSOL energy center, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Today, 3:10 P.M.
Media: TruTV, WWNC 570

When you’re a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, there’s one statistic that always comes up.  No 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed ever since the field expanded to 64 teams.  With that knowledge, a team and their fans can often go into a game with a “lambs to the slaughter” mentality.  Not this team, and not this fan.

I was going to type up a preview essentially saying that Syracuse will win today, and Asheville can keep it close if they play really well.  But then two things happened.  The first, of course, is Fab Melo, who didn’t do his homework and will miss the entire tournament as a result.  As Matt Dickey said, Syracuse can just replace him with another McDonalds All-American, but it’d be folly to say that Melo’s loss doesn’t impact today’s game.

Without Melo, Syracuse loses their tallest starter and a good 4 inches on Asheville.  Their tallest starter is now 6’9″, which is to say 4 inches taller than Quinard Jackson.  Melo was also the Big East Defensive POY.  What does this mean for the Bulldogs?  The 2-3 zone, which Boeheim is famous for running, loses a bit of its potency without a long athletic center in the middle.  Chris, Q, and Jeremy Atkinson will have to use this to Asheville’s advantage and drive to the hoop without fear.  This may also open up Matt and JP for more perimeter shots and pullup jumpers.  This lessened height difference will also allow the frontcourt to crash off boards against a bigger team like we’ve done all year.

The second thing that popped in my mind is the success this team has had against “major” teams this year.  Granted, the record is not there, but Asheville has played every single major conference squad very close this year (heck, even in 2011, where we gave Pitt quite a scare).  Asheville needs to get out and play even with Cuse from the get go, not letting them get ahead and deliver a KO in the first 5 minutes.  In the UConn game, that’s exactly what happened and while we outplayed the Huskies in the last 15 minutes, of the game, Connecticut’s massive run at the start ensured that they always had breathing room.  Given the focus on defense this team has had over the past month, I think the Bulldogs will work to minimize such an occurrence.

It’s never happened before.  Why not Asheville?  If the Bulldogs bring their “A” game, then it’s a definite possibility.

Asheville 82, Syracuse 80

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