By Logan Hawkins
The madness of March is upon us and the Cinderella stories are scattered throughout this year’s bracket. We have already seen a 15 seed take down a 2 seed and 8 other upsets throughout the tournament. One of Friday’s upsets came from the Syracuse Orangemen. They took down San Diego State handily with their signature 2-3 zone and help from Buddy Boeheim’s 30-point performance. While Syracuse is not a cinderella story, their victory was an official upset as defined by the NCAA (To be an upset there has to be a 4 seed difference between the teams).
Sunday evenings match-up will be the 51st time these two teams have faced each other, with the Orangemen
holding a 34 to 16 advantage. The only thing left from our Big East matchups with Jim Boeheim’s team is the 2-3 zone. In today’s game, it seems teams live and die by the three. That is why I think this will be the key to the Mountaineers winning this game. West Virginia holds the advantage in this category shooting 36.2% from behind the arc. While the Syracuse Orange are shooting 34.9%. The Mountaineers average 20 attempts a game and the Syracuse Orange 22.
We all know how stifling the orange zone can be, but the way to beat it is by having great outside shooters. Luckily for WVU, we have just that, if Culver can keep the zone honest. As we all know that’s easier said than done. The San Diego State Aztecs who lost to the Orange Friday night shot 37.5% for the year. The orange held the Aztecs to 27.5% on 11 of 40 behind the arc. I do not see the Mountaineers shooting the three 40 times unless they’re down big to the Orange. So let’s hope we’re not near that number. I think we will be closer to 30 attempts for the game.
On the year Syracuse has held teams to 31.5% from the three. Their opponents are averaging 27.3 three-point attempts a game, West Virginia has only had two games this year with over 27 attempts. A win over South Dakota State and a loss to the Florida Gators. In each of those games, West Virginia shot below 29%.
The other weakness of a 2-3 zone is offensive rebounding. When playing zone defense the player is guarding an area not a specific player, making it hard sometimes to find opponents to box out. Offensive rebounding is still an area where West Virginia excels. We are ranked 6th in the country averaging 11.8 offensive rebounds a game. Syracuse ranks 332nd in the country giving up 10.6 rebounds a game, so this is a stat that should smile on the Mountaineers. It should be a great game this evening and like you, I am counting down the hours. Let’s go Mountaineers!
The game will be played this evening at 5:15 P.M. (ET) on CBS. The winner of this matchup will advance to the sweet 16 and play the winner of Houston vs. Rutgers.