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Syracuse proving it belongs

The Syracuse Orange were not supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament in the estimation of many. Syracuse only won 18 games and lost to the St. John’s Red Storm, a team that barely won a single game in the Big East conference this season.

Yet, the Orange found themselves in March Madness as a No. 10 seed and have since proven they belong among the elite, sitting only one win away from the Final Four. Syracuse was almost universally picked against when going against the No. 7 Dayton Flyers, but it rolled to an easy win. The Orange then caught a break, with the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans and quasi-favorite losing to No. 15 Middle Tennessee State.

The Orange rolled past the Cinderella MTSU squad in the second round, and then drew the No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Syracuse then won against on Friday night, beating Gonzaga in a thrilling contest that came down to the final minute.

While Syracuse certainly is not of the quality of the Kansas Jayhawks or North Carolina Tar Heels, it remains quite dangerous. The patented 2-3 zone is confounding for many teams that aren’t shooting well from the outside. In addition, head coach Jim Boeheim is a terrific coach who has more than 40 years at the helm. Boeheim only has one national championship to his credit, but he can scheme with anybody.

Should the Orange beat the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers and reach the Final Four, they will be viewed as both a Cinderella story and a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday’s contests

On Saturday, a pair of No. 1 seeds will be looking to move into the Final Four. Perhaps the most exciting game is in the West region, with the Oregon Ducks pitted against the Oklahoma Sooners. Oregon has been underrated throughout the season, but finished with a No. 5 ranking in the polls. The Ducks rely on Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook, two of the best players in the country.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma has Ryan Spangler on the inside and Buddy Hield on the perimeter. Hield is a senior and averaging more than 25 points per game, giving Oklahoma the most prolific scorer in the tournament. Should Oklahoma get to the Final Four, it could face Kansas, a team that beat the Sooners twice in epic affairs throughout Big 12 play.

The Jayhawks will aim to take down the Villanova Wildcats in another 1-2 matchup. Villanova has a history of choking in March. but the Wildcats are rolling in a major way this year. After being ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history, head coach Jay Wright has his group one step away from the Final Four. On Thursday, Villanova took apart the Miami Hurricanes, scoring 92 points.

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