Representing the # 7 and # 10 seeds of the Midwest bracket, the 25-7 Dayton Flyers and the 19-13 Syracuse Orangemen will meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon in St. Louis. Dayton had 3 signature wins this season against Iowa, Vanderbilt, and VCU while also winning 15 of 16 games at one point. They tied for the regular season championship in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 14-4 record but lost to Saint Joseph’s in the semifinals of the conference tournament. The Orangemen are back in the tournament after being ineligible last year due to academic violations in the athletic department. Syracuse enters this matchup having lost 5 out of their last 6 games the last 2 weeks of the season and their 19-13 record is the worst record coach Jim Boeheim ever had in 32 NCAA tournament appearances.
Dayton is a very experienced team as their starting lineup is comprised of only juniors and seniors. The Flyers have 4 players who average double figures in scoring led by junior guard Charles Cooke who was selected for the All-Atlantic 10 first team and defensive team. He averages 15.7 points and 6 assists per game while averaging more than 1 steal and 1 block per game. Dyshawn Pierre is another impact player and the senior forward averages 13 points and 8.6 rebounds. As a team they turned the ball over on almost 19% of their possessions which is above the Division I average. They also had some bad losses this season including a home loss to Rhode Island and road loss at La Salle. They are an excellent rebounding team grabbing 78.9 percent of defensive rebounds which is good for sixth in the country.
Syracuse’s offense is led by senior Michael Gbinije who was named to the All-ACC Second Team and averages 18 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. The Orangemen have taken 776 three-pointers this season which was ranked 37th in the nation. Malachi Richardson is a freshman guard who is second on the team with 13.2 points per game to go along with 4.3 assists. Tyler Robinson is a junior forward who leads the team in rebounding at 8 per game to go along with 9 points. Trevor Cooney is a senior guard who has tournament experience and is averaging 13 points per game. As a team, they rank 36th in the country in defense by allowing only 65.7 points per game and is 16th in the country in steals averaging more than 8 per game.
These 2 teams last met in the 2014 NCAA tournament with Dayton beating Syracuse 55-53 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and Dayton still has several of those players on the roster. Syracuse is 15-17 against the spread this year including 6-6 as the underdog. The Flyers have gone 14-15-3 against the spread this season including 12-13-3 as the favorite.
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