NCAA Tournament Preview: 3 vs. 14 Games
Syracuse (27-5, 14-4 ACC) vs. W. Michigan (23-9, 14-4 MAC)
Syracuse Strengths and Weaknesses
Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone keeps Syracuse in games, especially when they struggle offensively. Syracuse holds opponents to just 59.5 points per game, which is ninth in the country. We know about CJ Fair, Tyler Ennis and the Cuse starting five, but their isn't much after that. The Orange only go seven deep, which could prevent them from a deep tourney run.
Western Michigan Strengths and Weaknesses
The Broncos can score the basketball very effiecently and with multiple players. WMU has three players that score in double figures on average, inclduing David Brown who tallied 32 points in the MAC championship game against Toledo. However, with their aggressiveness on offense comes turnovers that come at a 14.1 clip per game. That doesn't mix well with Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense.
X-Factor: Can Syracuse emerge from their shooting slump
Since Feb. 3 Syracuse has scored under 62 total points nine of 11 games during that span including five games where they scored in the fifties. Against a WMU team that averages 72.5 points per game, low scoring could equal an early exit for Syracuse.
Iowa State (26-7, 11-7 Big 12) vs. N.C Central (28-5, 15-1 MEAC)
Iowa State Strengths and Weaknesses
Iowa State has many players that get involved on offense led by DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. The Cyclones use those weapons and spread the ball well, averaging the nation's best 18.5 assists per game. Free throw shooting has plagued Iowa State at times this year as they are an inconsistent free throw shooting team at 69.4 precent.
North Carolina Central Strengths and Weaknesses
Every mid-major team that pulls off an upset has a lethal scorer leading the way and NC Central has just that in Jeremy Ingram. Ingram averages 20.6 points per game and totaled 29 in the MEAC final against Morgan State. NC Central has great guard play but not much on the inside. That will especially hurt them against the big men of Iowa State.
X-Factor: Can Jeremy Ingram do enough to keep the Eagles in the game?
We know Jeremy Ingram is good for 20-25 points in the MEAC, but against an athletic team like Iowa State that can have multiple players guard him, Ingram can't afford to have an off shooting night.
Duke (26-8, 13-5 ACC) vs. Mercer (26-8, 14-4 A-Sun)
Duke Strengths and Weaknesses
Duke can flat out score the basketball with ACC Freshman of the Year Jabari Parker leading the way. Parker averages 19.2 points per game and is complimented by Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, all who average nine or more a game. Defensively, if Duke goes up against a team with a strong big man inside, they could be in trouble without a true scoring big man on its roster.
Mercer Strengths and Weaknesses
Mercer is an expceptional offensive team as they are in the top 40 nationally in points (79.3), assists (38.0), rebounds (16.4) and field goal percentage (47.5) per game. Langston Hall is the only bear that averages in double figures though and sometimes the Bears find themselves looking for that second major scorer.
X-Factor: How will Jabari Parker fair in the NCAA Tournament?
Duke will go as far as Parker goes. If he can play like the ACC Player of the Year that some thought he should have been and distribute to his teammates, the Blue Devils will be put together nicely for a March run.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
I am a senior at Penn State majoring in broadcast journalism. I currently serve as the production director at ComRadio. In addition to that I host a weekly talk show and do play-by-play for a variety of sports including football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.