In a year where the selection committee made some questionable decisions, this matchup was not an exception. Sitting firmly on the bubble going into Selection Sunday, the Orange were shockingly given the 10 seed in the Midwest region. Dayton is coming off a regular season A-10 championship and meets Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the past three seasons. The last time the Flyers and Orange met was in the 3rd round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, which Dayton won 55-53. The game will air on CBS at 12:15 on Friday, March 18.
Match-Up to Watch: Smith vs Gbinije
The match-up I am most excited to see is between guards Scoochie Smith and Michael Gbinije. Gbinije’ tough defense will be a difficult match for Smith’s incredible speed. Scoochie can tear through the 2-3 zone of Syracuse if he is not held in check. Michael Gbinije has been lights out from behind the arc for the Orange all season shooting just over 40%. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers will be able to shut down Gbinije, who averaged just under 20 points per game in the last month.
X-Factor for Dayton: Size Down Low
While Dayton isn’t necessarily the tallest team, they do have a size advantage at the center position. Redshirt freshman Steve McElvene, listed at 6’11”, can prove to be a big problem for the Orange. Anyone will be able to tell you that the Orange’s biggest struggle is their play in the post. Big men DaJuan Coleman and Tyler Lydon have had difficulties all season defending down low. If Dayton can get the ball inside to McElvene, they will be able to control the game.
X-Factor for Syracuse: Raining Threes
As previously stated, Syracuse is effectively non-existent in the post. No matter what they do, the Orange cannot get anything done inside. However, they were effective shooting the three. They rode the hot hand from behind the arc on the way to wins over Duke and Notre Dame in the regular season. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson, and Tyler Lydon are all three point threats so the Flyers must shut down the perimeter if they wish win this game.
Key Stat: Free Throw %
In researching these two teams, I made an interesting discovery. Dayton and Syracuse are two of the worst free throw shooting teams in all of Division I basketball. Out of 351 Division I programs, Syracuse (68.3%) and Dayton (67.3%) rank numbers 236 and 271 respectively. If the game is close down the stretch, free throws may take on an even more important role.
Both teams have struggled down the stretch, but Syracuse has struggled more. The Flyers move on to the Round of 32 with a 75-70 win.
Syracuse University Class of 2018