Syracuse Basketball: What Experts Say About Orange's NCAA Tournament Chances

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange gestures from the sideline against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the semifinals of the Big East men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

After a spectacular season that saw them go 31-2, the Syracuse Orange are locked in as the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse is coming off a surprising loss to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament, but the Orange are more than deserving of their seeding.

While every prognosticator seems to have a different opinion regarding Syracuse, the vast majority of them have the Orange getting to at least the Elite Eight. From that point forward, however, there are plenty of disagreements. Although they all may be called experts, some of them are bound to be wrong.

Here is an analysis of how some of the Internet's most well-respected bracketologists think the Orange will fare in the big dance.

Update: Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. EST by Eric Ball

The news that Fab Melo will be out for the tournament due to academic issues has caused millions to alter their bracket. The Big East player of the year was the anchor to their vaunted 2-3 zone and now the gap to fill is going to be huge. Here are a few experts thoughts post Melo's suspension. 

Dan Wetzel- Yahoo! Sports

Count Wetzel as one of the few experts that hasn't thrown in the towel on Syracuse just yet. In a year where the team has dealt with the Bernie Fine scandal, Jim Boeheim getting sued and the school coming under fire for their drug testing policies, this is just the latest distraction for this resilient bunch:

No, Syracuse isn’t done. Not by any means. If this was going to happen to one of Boeheim’s teams, it might as well be this one – perhaps his deepest ever. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita are the likely fill-ins and both are capable, if lightly experienced.

Wetzel has a great point. 

Few, if any teams have the depth Syracuse does and they have the ability to overcome this. But now all of the pressure falls on the shoulders of two players that have very little experience. 

ESPN NBA draft analysis Chad Ford believes Melo has played his final game in the collegiate ranks:

I guess you can scratch Fab Melo off the list of players to watch in the East Region. Gotta believe he's going pro after this ...

— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) March 13, 2012

Jeff Goodman- CBS Sports 

Plenty of people are busting out their eraser as they re-think Syracuse and Goodman is no different. He believes there is now the potential for the Orangemen to get bounced in the first weekend:

The top-seeded Orange aren't the same team without him. I'd like a bracket do-over, please -- and I'm not alone. This 'Cuse team could easily go down early now, maybe in its second game against Kansas State or in the Sweet 16 against a Vanderbilt team that just got done taking care of Kentucky in the SEC tournament championship contest.

It seems as if the new consensus is that Syracuse will lose to Vandy in the Sweet Sixteen only if they can survive the pressure defense of Kansas State. 

The always hilarious Bill Walton parody is able to rip Kentucky with the Melo news:

Fab Melo is ineligible for failing some classes. This wouldnt happen at Kentucky, they never attend classes to fail them in the first place.

— The Bill Walton Trip (@NotBillWalton) March 13, 2012

CBS Sports Network analyst Jon Rothstein is officially changing his bracket:

Going to change my Final Four with Fab Melo news. Florida State, Georgetown, Missouri, Kentucky.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 14, 2012


Jay Bilas - ESPN

Perhaps the foremost voice for college basketball on ESPN is analyst Jay Bilas. Not only is he an anchor for analysis on college games throughout the season, but he is a huge part of the network's tournament coverage. Interestingly, Bilas went all chalk on his bracket as he had every No. 1 seed advancing to the Final Four. That, of course, includes the Orange, who he has getting past UNC Asheville, Kansas State, Vanderbilt and Ohio State.

He then picks the Orange to knock off the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four before succumbing to the favored Kentucky Wildcats in the National Championship Game. Bilas obviously loves Syracuse's zone defense, which is the best in the nation of its kind. He believes that gives the Orange a chance to win it all, but thinks they will fall just short.

My personal pick in the East Region is for Ohio State to beat Syracuse in the Elite Eight, so I don't fully agree with Bilas' assessment. He is too heavy on the No. 1 seeds and the odds of all four making it all the way are pretty slim. At least one is likely to lose and I expect that to be the Orange.


Gary Parrish - CBS Sports

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Scoop Jardine #11 of the Syracuse Orange looks on against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McI
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Like Bilas, CBS Sports college basketball insider Gary Parrish has Syracuse going a couple rounds, but he is far less conservative than the ESPN guru. Parrish has Syracuse getting knocked off in the Sweet 16 by Vanderbilt after the Commodores' shocking win over Kentucky in the SEC Championship Game.

Parrish has Ohio State in the Final Four, but he also lists seven teams that he can realistically see winning the tournament, with Syracuse being one of them. By virtue of that, Parrish has some belief in the Orange should they get past Vandy. Parrish acknowledges that Syracuse has been the most impressive team in the region over the course of the season, but he also says that Ohio State has the better roster.

Syracuse's roster is nothing to sneeze at with the likes of Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine and others, but it doesn't have a dominant player like Ohio State does in Jared Sullinger. The Orange are a deep team, but when push comes to shove, they won't have a player who will take the bull by the horns.


Mark Giannotto - Washington Post

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 11:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange talks with (in uniform L-R) Scoop Jardine #11, Brandon Triche #20, C.J. Fair #5, Baye Moussa Keita #12 and Kris Joseph #32 during a timeout against the Villanova Wildcats at the
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

As a newspaper reporter, Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post gives a bit of a different perspective than the other two experts, but he is somewhat similar to Bilas in his assessment of the Orange. Like Bilas, he has Syracuse advancing to the Final Four, but he has North Carolina eliminating the Orange in the huge semi-final matchup. 

Giannotto makes mention of Vanderbilt's outside shooters like John Jenkins possibly making life difficult to head coach Jim Boeheim and his patented zone defense, but he has Wisconsin curtailing the possibility of such a matchup. Giannotto also has Florida State upsetting Ohio State to make it to the Elite Eight, but doesn't believe the Seminoles are a good enough shooting team to advance past Cuse.

Although Giannotto expresses concern regarding whether the Orange have the stars to matchup with Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, he thinks the Tar Heels will just barely squeak by Syracuse. Ultimately, it seems like every expert likes aspects of the Orange, but none believe they have all the components necessary to win a title.


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