With the exception of last year, where the four number one seeds were head and shoulders above the reset, I’ve never been one to pick the so-called favorites to make the Final Four.
This year I did some searching for a sleeper pick and at after six overtimes at about 1 a.m. EST on Friday morning, I found my team.
Syracuse passed my eye test in their thriller against UConn, but after I looked deeper into their stats, I was even more sold on them.
Surely, they’d have to get a favorable seeding. But I highly doubt they’ll have to play teams as good as UConn, West Virginia or Louisville in their first two games of the tournament.
And as I’ve learned over the years, once you make it to the Sweet 16 anything can happen.
Here are the top 5 reasons Syracuse will make the Final Four.
1. They Score Points
When you think of highflying, high scoring Syracuse may not come to mind. But surprisingly, they are third in the nation in terms of points scored. Of course defense wins championships, but scoring the basketball put a ton of pressure on opposing teams. The have also made more field goals than anyone in the country.
2. Jonny Flynn
March is all about guard play. And the Orangemen have a top five point guard in Jonny Flynn handling the ball each possession. He controls the game, passes well (3rd in the nation in assists) and is virtually unstoppable coming off of the high ball screen. He’s also relentless at attacking the basket, as proved against Hasheem Thabeet this past weekend. Most importantly he’s durable.
3. 3 Point Shooting
At any given time, Syracuse has two excellent 3 point shooters on the floor in Eric Devendoorf and Andy Routins. Those two aside, Flynn is a streaky shooter who can get hot as well as Paul Harris.
The Orangemen have a number of big bodies down low who have accumulated more rebounds than any team in the country. Arinze Onuaku is 6-9, 275 and Rick Jackson is 6-9, 240. They also have a feisty big man in 6-8 Kristoff Ongenaet.
5. The Will To Win
As exhibited in their six- overtime battle with UConn, which was followed by an overtime game with West Virginia, the Orangemen don’t quit. Even in their championship game against number one seed Louisville, which was essentially fifth game in four days, they played hard and even had an eight-point lead at half time.
Just for good measure, here’s highlights from the 6 OT classic at Madison Square Garden.