Once again, Syracuse as a double-digit seed is a dangerous team. Heading into the Sweet Sixteen, Syracuse will clash with the No.2 seed Houston. Syracuse has been blazing-hot in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. While Houston boasts one of the best defenses in college basketball. Which team will prevail and head into the Elite Eight?
Houston leads the country holding opponents to 37.8% shooting. Also, the Cougars are 12th in opponent three point percentage at the mark of 29.3%. Houston must figure out how to slow down Syracuse’s offense. In the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse is shooting 53.5% and 50% from three. They are led by Buddy Boeheim, the head coach Jim Boeheim‘s son. Boeheim has been lights out in his last four games averaging 28.3 points shooting 60% and 55.8% from three. Clearly, Boeheim has been a problem. Houston certainly has a defense worthy of stopping Syracuse, but it is no guarantee.
Furthermore, one of Houston’s leading-scorers has been slumping in March Madness. The talented sophomore guard Marcus Sasser averages 13.3 points this season. However, Sasser only contributed four points against Rutgers and shot 1/9. In addition, Sasser was 4/15 versus Cleveland State. The Houston guard is 3/13 from three in the NCAA Tournament.
Dejon Jarreau is another talented Houston guard that averages 10.9 points. Jarreau sustained a hip injury against Cleveland State at the beginning of the game. Jarreau still played against Rutgers two days later, but was in obvious pain. He had a gritty performance scoring 17 points with a vulnerable hip. There is no guarantee Jarreau can continue being consistent with a bad hip. Therefore, Sasser must step up against Syracuse. If Sasser can just be efficient and score 13+ points against Syracuse, Houston will be in a good position.
One key for Syracuse is evident, feed Boeheim. Boeheim has been special this March, and shows no sign of slowing down. Even though Houston has a great defense, Boeheim can still torch the Cougars. San Diego State came into the Round of 64 holding opponents to 61.9 points. Also, San Diego State had a stingy defense holding opponents to 39.8% from the field. However, Boeheim still put up 30 points and shot 73.3% against San Diego State. Even more impressive, Boeheim was a scorching 7/10 from three. He followed this performance with a 25 outing against West Virginia. Syracuse must get Boeheim the ball against Houston.
Syracuse was outrebounded by 12 against West Virginia. Houston is seventh in the country in rebounds per game. In addition, Houston has outrebounded opponents by an average of 12 in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange have to rebound well to advance to the Elite Eight.
Perhaps Syracuse’s most troubling trend in March Madness is allowing opponents to snag 17 offensive rebounds per game. Houston is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in college basketball. They are third with 13 offensive rebounds per game, and lead the country with an offensive rebounding percentage of 39.9%. Syracuse allowing offensive rebounds in bunches is no recent struggle. Syracuse ranks 337th in allowing 10.8 offensive rebounds per game. Houston’s ability to gain extra possessions in alarming. The Cougars are averaging 16 offensive rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. Further, Houston had nine more shot attempts than Rutgers and 17 more shot attempts than Cleveland State. Obviously Houston’s offensive rebounding has led to more scoring opportunities. Syracuse has to limit Houston’s offensive rebounding through a great defensive rebounding effort.
Players to Watch
Of course, Boeheim is the player to watch for Syracuse. No one has stopped him in the NCAA Tournament. If he turns in another huge performance, Syracuse could be looking at an Elite Eight birth.
For Houston, Quentin Grimes averages 18.1 points. In the NCAA Tournament, Grimes is averaging 20 points and shooting 52.9% from three. Houston will need another good game from Grimes.
Fabian White Jr., the Houston forward, is coming off an ACL tear. White looks almost back to normal in the NCAA Tournament. Coming off the bench, White was 4/4 with 12 points versus Cleveland State. Also, he is averaging nine points in his last three games. White is a sleeper off the bench for Houston. If he continues this output, Houston should have good scoring off their bench.
Lastly, Houston’s lead-rebounder is Justin Gorham averaging 8.6 rebounds. Also, Gorham is eighth in the country with 3.86 offensive rebounds per game. Recently, Gorham is only averaging three total rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. Gorham needs to bounce back for Houston. With a good Gorham performance, Houston could completely control the glass and tempo of the game.
In the end, Boeheim already tore apart a good defensive team in San Diego State. Houston is coming off a game where they allowed Rutgers to shoot 43.8% from three. Boeheim has been lethal from three in the month of March.
Of course, Houston is fully capable of turning in a great defensive performance versus Syracuse. Also, Houston probably has the better backcourt than Syracuse. The Cougars have some of the best guards in college basketball.
This should be one of the best Sweet Sixteen games this weekend. The game airs Saturday 9:55 p.m. on TBS.
Prediction: 70-66 Syracuse
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.