NCAA Tournament First Round: #4 Syracuse Vs. #13 Montana
- CoachingThis one is absolutely no contest. Jim Boeheim has reached three Final Fours and won a national championship (2003). He will bring his top-of-the-line acumen to the ACC next year, but for now, it’s to the big dance on behalf of the Big East.Wayne Tinkle has done an exemplary job with the University of Montana, turning the Grizzlies into a perennial force in the Big Sky Conference, but he has a long way to go before he’s in Boeheim’s company.
- OffenseThe Orange score at a pretty decent clip, with C.J. Fair, James Southerland and Brandon Tiche in the mix, and as an excellent rebounding team (20th in the nation), they create more opportunities for themselves.Clearly, the Grizzlies haven’t played the same level of competition that ‘Cuse has, but it’s impossible to deny how much Montana maximizes its possessions, shooting 47.4 percent from the field, thanks to 50 percent plus shooting from leading scorers Mathias Ward and Kareem Jamar.
- DefenseThis is the Orange’s bread and butter, as the players have bought into Boeheim’s system. Keeping opponents to low shooting efficiency, low points totals and grabbing nearly nine steals a game makes them a formidable bunch.The Grizzlies are not nearly as stifling as Syracuse, with inferior defensive numbers in a far inferior conference. They also don’t force many turnovers (5.8 steals per game).
- Bench DepthBackup center Baye Keita anchors the reserve unit with prowess, and Jerami Grant can be counted on when the Orange really need him. Freshman guard Trevor Cooney is also capable of making an impact, though he is still finding his way.Sophomore forward Mike Weisner is a stud off the bench, shooting nearly 50 percent from downtown, and Keron DeShields has also made a significant impact.
Syracuse has the advantage, but Montana is a sneaky team far more capable of pulling the upset than people think. Still, chalk will probably prevail, thanks to Syracuse’s superior talent level.