Fourth-seeded Syracuse will play Montana in second round of NCAA tournament

A breakdown of No. 4 Syracuse's first game in the NCAA tournament against the No.13 Montana Grizzlies.

March Madness is upon us and the Syracuse University men’s hoops team (26-9) received the No. 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament East region. The Orange play the No. 13 seeded University of Montana Grizzlies (25-6) Thursday in San Jose, Calif.

As far as Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is concerned, he said he thought his team jumped four lines with its performance at the Big East Tournament.

“I think the Big East Tournament had a big effect in our seeding,” Boeheim said. “Pittsburgh is a No. 8 seed and we beat Pittsburgh.”

The Grizzlies are invited to dance for the second straight year after defeating the Weber Wildcats 67-64 in the Big Sky Conference championship game. Montana lost to the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of last year’s tournament 73-49. The Grizzlies are also heading into their ninth tournament and won 21 of its last 23 games.

The East region is led by the No. 1 seeded Indiana Hoosiers (27-6) and by the No. 2 seeded University of Miami Hurricanes (27-5). Other key teams within the region include the No. 3 seeded Marquette Golden Eagles, the No. 5 seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and the No. 6 seeded Butler Bulldogs.

The Hoosiers are the clear-cut favorite to win the region, but could run into trouble early in the tournament against the winner of the No. 8 seeded North Carolina State Wolfpack and the No. 9 seeded Temple Owls. Each team beat the Duke Blue Devils and the Orange, respectively. The Owls also come into the tournament winning seven of their last eight, while Indiana has lost three of its last six.

As far as the Orange is concern, it should not have any trouble against the Grizzlies after being battle-tested against the likes of Louisville, Georgetown and Pittsburgh during the Big East tournament. Montana is also missing its leading scorer, senior forward Mathias Ward, after a foot injury against Idaho State forced him to miss the rest of the season. Syracuse will also take advantage of senior forward James Southerland’s shooting hot streak in order to put away the Grizzlies. In his last four games, Southerland has made 19-33 from three-point range.

The Orange also hold the advantage in the backcourt. Both senior guard Brandon Triche and sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams are both taller that the Montana guards. Triche and Carter-Williams are both listed at 6-foot-4-inches and 6-foot-6-inches, respectively. Grizzlies guards Jordan Gregory and Will Cherry, on the other hand, are listed at 6-foot-2-inches. Carter-Williams is also third in the country in assists with 7.7 per game.

As for Montana, they will look to stretch out Syracuse’s zone with three-point shooting coming from Gregory and sophomore forward Mike Weisner. The Grizzlies will also look to neutralize Syracuse forward C.J. Fair by matching him up against forward Kareem Jamar, the team’s leading shot-blocker and rebounder.  

Expectations for the Orange vary. Seth Davis, a college basketball analyst at CBS Sports, predicts Syracuse to lose against Montana. Doug Gottlieb, another analyst at CBS, expects the Orange to in the third round to the winner of UNLV and California, he said.


This will be the Orange’s second trip to the West Coast this year. Syracuse played the San Diego State Aztecs in San Diego to start off its 2012-1013 campaign.  The team will be looking to head west either tomorrow night or Tuesday afternoon at the latest, Boeheim said.

“We just have to go [and play],” Boeheim said. “We know that Montana is a very good team and we’re in the process of finding out more about them.”

Triche and Southerland said they are not worried about the three-hour time difference when traveling to California.

“We’re battle-tested and we’re used to winning,” Triche said.

This will mark the Orange’s thirtieth trip to the tournament in Boeheim’s tenure. Boeheim boasts a 46-27 record in the tournament and has led the Orange to three Final Four appearances, three championship appearances and one championship victory in 2003.

“We’re happy to be in the tournament again and about the way we played in New York City,” said head coach Jim Boeheim.

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