Dayton (24-10) vs. Syracuse (28-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 22, 7:10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: First Niagara Center (18,690) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: TBS. NCAA Record: Dayton 15-16, Syracuse 61-37. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: After earning a thrilling upset victory in the second round, the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers will try to continue their Cinderella run in the third round on Saturday when they take on the third-seeded Syracuse Orange in South Region action at the First Niagara Center.
Dayton led for the majority of the second half in its second-round matchup with sixth-seeded Ohio State until falling behind by one with 17 seconds to play, but it stormed down the court on its last possession and won the game on a Vee Sanford layup with just five seconds left. The Flyers have won 11 of their last 13 games to improve to 24-10 and will try to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984.
Syracuse came into the tournament slumping with losses in five of its previous seven games but showed no ill effects in its first tournament matchup, as it dismissed 14th-seeded Western Michigan, 77-53. The Orange, who were the nation's No. 1 team for a large portion of the regular season, are now 28-5 on the year and 61-37 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
The all-time series between these two squads is knotted up at a game apiece, with the sides last meeting up in 1977.
The Flyers were able to hang with Ohio State in the defensive struggle earlier in the week despite getting outshot from the field, 48 percent to 44.9 percent, as they forced the Buckeyes into a game-high 14 turnovers and outscored them at the free-throw line, 13-8. Dyshawn Pierre was perfect from the field (2-of-2) and the free-throw line (7-of-7) on his way to 12 points. Devin Oliver and Sanford put up 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Jordan Sibert and Matt Kavanaugh scored nine points apiece.
Dayton is usually a more potent offensive squad, as it shoots 46.6 percent from the field this season (including 37.5 percent from 3-point range) for 73.0 ppg, which has been enough to support a solid showing on the defensive end of the floor (67.4 ppg). The balanced squad is led by the efforts of Sibert (12.4 ppg), Oliver (12.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Pierre (11.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Sanford (9.9 ppg).
The Orange never broke a sweat against WMU, running out to a commanding 19- point victory at halftime before putting the game on autopilot from there. Not only did they hold WMU to just 34.7 percent field-goal shooting, but they enjoyed one of their best offensive performances of the season at 49.1 percent shooting. Trevor Cooney knocked down 4-of-8 from 3-point range on his way to 18 points. Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis both scored 16, with Ennis adding six assists, and C.J. Fair tallied a double-double with 14 point and 11 boards.
Syracuse has risen to elite ranks this season thanks to its outstanding defense, which ranks ninth in the nation in allowing a mere 59.3 ppg. Unfortunately the squad's offensive effort (.439 FG percentage, 68.4 ppg) isn't always trustworthy, as it scored 63 points or less in 10 of its previous 11 games prior to its second-round win. The team possesses strong balance, with Fair (16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Grant (12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) manning the paint and Ennis (12.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg) and Cooney (12.4 ppg, 90 3PM) patrolling the perimeter.
Syracuse was barely challenged by the Mid-American Conference champions in the second round and is expected to get a much stronger push from Dayton in this battle. The Flyers have a great chance at another upset if they can continue the tenacious play they showed against Ohio State, but figure for Jim Boeheim's squad to continue its stellar defensive play and knock down enough shots to advance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 66, Dayton 62
03/22 10:18:51 ET