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NCAA Tournament 2012: Why the Key to a 'Cuse Run Is Not the Big Men

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange drives in the second half against Will Spradling #55 of the Kansas State Wildcats during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 17, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Andrew PreglerContributor IIIMarch 20, 2012

You are only as strong as your weakest link, right? Many analysts say that for the Syracuse Orange, missing Fab Melo makes the frontcourt Syracuse's weakest link. 

However, when looking at the rest of the East region and the opponents Syracuse will most likely play, the Orange will need their big men to rise up, but there is another piece of their unit that needs to come up big. 

My logic to this argument is that if the big men matchup against Wisconsin, Ohio State or UNC/Kansas, would the Orange be able to win their current production from the rest of the team? I would say that there is one glaring area the Orange need to continue to improve upon. 

The Orange's outside shooting presence needs to continue to impress as Syracuse moves forward. James Southerland is leading the charge by being the Orange's main three-point specialist, but surprisingly the only. 

Scoop Jardine found his long-range stroke against Kansas State, but the other main guards have really struggled so far from behind the arc. Against the Wildcats, the Orange only shot nine threes and made six, three from Jardine in his three attempts. Against UNC-Asheville, Syracuse shot 5-of-23 from three-point land. 

In this horrible performance of shooting, the 'Cuse guards shot a combined 2-of-12, forcing threes and keeping UNC-Asheville too close to the superior Orange. 

Moving forward, Syracuse needs to combine these two opposite performances if they are going to make a Final Four run sans Melo. The three-point shot can offer two distinct advantages for the Orange. 

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  (from right) C.J. Fair #5, Michael Carter-Williams #1 and James Southerland #43 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate after a second half dunk by Syracue against the Kansas State Wildcats during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men'
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

First, it will allow the Orange to stretch the defenses it faces, keeping the post area cleared out for Baye Moussa-Kieta and Rakeem Christmas. Both players may not be able to matchup one-on-one with Thomas Robinson, Tyler Zeller or Jared Sullinger, but if the game becomes a half-court game inside the arc, everyone will have to go against these elite big men. 

Stretching the defenses will allow for the Orange's motion offense to create mismatches and open lanes for Dion Waiters and Jardine to drive to the hoop like they did successfully against K-State. 

Secondly, hitting the three-point shot will allow the Orange to speed up the game and set the tempo. With the exception of North Carolina, every team Syracuse could face on their way to the Final would try to slow down the tempo and keep the game close.

The three-point shot would force a team like Wisconsin or Ohio State to either play a transition/shooting game they do not want to play or speed up their game in order to match the points Syracuse plays. 

Now Syracuse cannot force the three-point shot, but there should be a concentrated effort to set up the open three ball more while the guards need to make more of these shots. This will help Syracuse hide the absence of Fab and make their run to the Final Four.  

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