Syracuse is poised to be this year's March Madness Cinderella
The 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket is set, and this year’s sudden-death event promises to be incredibly exciting.
Gonzaga has stolen many of headlines as the strongly-favored No. 1 overall seed, but there are sleeper teams scattered throughout the rest of the bracket that may stir things up. This year, the Syracuse Orange are the team poised to be a Cinderella and shock the country as a double-digit entry.
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Illinois Fighting Illini
West Virginia Mountaineers
Ohio State Buckeyes
Alabama Crimson Tide
Syracuse has momentum on its side
Syracuse finished their regular season at 16-9, and a middling 9-7 in ACC play. They are an 11-seed in the tournament, and are a 2.5-point underdog against the San Diego State Aztecs in their opening game. Many thought they were a worthy candidate for one of the play-in games, but a strong late season finish propelled them onto a standard line of the bracket.
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San Diego State
Syracuse finished the regular season winning three of four, and only narrowly lost to Virginia in their lone defeat The Orange are led on offense by 6'6" guard Buddy Boeheim, but are well-rounded on that end of the court, with five players averaging at least nine points per game. According to KenPom, Syracuse has the 22nd-most efficient offense in the country, and possesses a strong back court, which is key to success in the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State is a vulnerable favorite
When the Orange take on their section of the bracket, their first matchup will come against a San Diego State team that, like most Aztec squads, has found success with stout defense. However, despite their recent 14-game winning streak, the Aztecs not overly impressive on offense. Sure, they're a good three-point shooting team, but rely far too heavily on senior forward Matt Mitchell.
Syracuse's zone defense is key
Syracuse is well-known for its zone defense, which Boeheim has historically had great success with. It's highly disruptive and forces teams into taking the kinds of shots the Orange can live with. If Syracuse can get past the streaking Aztecs, their next likely next opponent would be the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Mountaineers have an elite offense, but are vulnerable on defense, and if star guard Miles McBride struggles, West Virginia could be in a world of trouble.
Syracuse is battle-tested and ready to make a deep run
The Orange have distant +8000 odds to win the whole tournament, and while those odds reflect reality, they are still a very live dog to make a run as a double-digit seed. They have pedigree, veteran coaching, and have been battle-tested through the ACC. Syracuse isn’t typically thought of as a Cinderella candidate, but as a middling program over the last couple of years and with other blue bloods sitting out the tournament entirely, the shoe might finally be on the other foot.