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Harvard Seeks to Upset Michigan State, Syracuse to Play Dayton

As the Men’s 2014 NCCA basketball championship enters its third full day of games, there’s already been numerous upsets and tight games. By the weekend’s end, look for more blown brackets and this year’s Cinderella teams.

Saturday has a full slate of games–all very interesting–but here’s a two games that come with some expectations.

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Harvard

After being hit with the injury bug for most of the season, Michigan State (27-8) ended on a high note with a Big Ten tournament win. It entered the Big Dance with high expectations to not only make it to the Final Four but also possibly win it all (5/1).

Adreian Payne

Adreian Payne

On Thursday, the Spartans defeated Delaware, 93-78 with a 41-point game by Adreian Payne. The team will hope for a repeat by Payne, including his 17 for 17 free throws, but if not, there’s other healthy players very capable of scoring in double digits.

While Michigan State’s return to health is a big story, the larger one may be Harvard (27-4) as a possible Cinderella for this year’s tournament. For its first game, the Crimson defeated Cincinnati 61-57 and now they’ll look to extend their last few years of hard work on Saturday.

Rewind two years ago and Harvard returned to the Big Dance–a first since 1946. Then, last year, they won a tournament game,which represented something they hadn’t done in the 102 years of basketball. Now will the third time be the charm?

Keys will include the fact that all of Harvard’s starters average double figures. Laurent Rivard is the team’s 3-point shooter and he’s had 78 shots for the season.

Harvard is used to playing games close together as the Ivy League has their conference games on Friday and Saturday nights. Over the last four seasons under Harvard’s coach Tommy Amaker, the team has gone 23-5 in the second half for back-to-back games. However, Michigan State plays well in these conditions too as it has an 18-3 record for its second game in the NCAA weekend.

Michigan State has more tournament experience on its side but Harvard may want this more as they’ll try to become the first Ivy League team since the 1983-84 Princeton team to win games in consecutive NCAA tournaments and the first Ivy league team to hit the Sweet 16 since 2010’s Cornell.

Sorry Harvard, Michigan State gets the win (-7, 136.5 o/u).

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Dayton 

After sitting undefeated for 20-plus weeks, Syracuse (28-5) suffered its first loss and soon ended the season with a first-round ACC tournament loss. But on Thursday for its first Big Dance game, well, Syracuse looked like Syracuse with its 77-53 win over Western Michigan. Its offense showed up, including good play by its guards, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney (18 points), who helped lead their team to its greatest number of points scored during regulation time since a late December game.

Trevor Cooney

Trevor Cooney

Syracuse will bring its 2/3 zone defense, which could trip up Dayton (24-10), as well as most of the teams they go up against in the Big Dance.

Dayton knows this is coming as its coach Archie Miller said of this challenge on Friday via the Associated Press, “We have to amp up our pace of play. When we play against the zone, we have to play as fast as we do against the man. That’s the comfort level of our kids. That’s the one thing we’ve got to do tomorrow — that game’s got to be on the run.”

Dayton reached this game by upsetting Ohio State, 60-59 on Thursday. The team has a lot of depth and can win as the game clock runs out but on Saturday, its luck will run out as Syracuse gets the win (-7, 127.5 o/u).



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