(1) Syracuse vs. (4) Wisconsin: East Region
Syracuse 33-2, 17-1, Big East (Regular-season conference champions; At large)
Wisconsin 26-9, 12-6 Big Ten (At large)
Time: 7:15 p.m. Thursday
Location: TD Garden in Boston
Winner will face: (2) Ohio State or (6) Cincinnati, Sunday
Syracuse def. UNC-Asheville, 72-65; def. Kansas State, 75-59
Wisconsin def. Montana, 73-49; def. Vanderbilt, 60-57
Syracuse No. 2 AP; No. 2 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Wisconsin No. 14 AP; No. 13 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Syracuse -3½ (O/U 121)
Players to Watch
Syracuse: F Kris Joseph, 6-7 Sr. (13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.3 spg); G Dion Waiters, 6-4 So. (12.7 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 spg); G Scoop Jardine, 6-2 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.4 spg). Jardine was spectacular in Saturday’s win, knocking down all three of his 3-point shots, handing out eight assists and grabbing five boards. He was 5-for-9 from the field overall and has 27 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds and three steals through the first two rounds of the tournament.
Wisconsin: G Jordan Taylor, 6-1 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 4 apg, 3.8 rpg); F Ryan Evans, 6-6 Jr. (11.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.7 apg); C Jared Berggren, 6-10 Jr. (10.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 35.6% 3s). Evans had a solid all-around game with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in the win over Vandy. He also had a key rebound and hit a key free throw with 2.1 seconds left to help the Badgers secure their spot in the Sweet 16.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Syracuse: The Orange seemed to find their way without suspended C Fab Melo in the second half of their win against Kansas State. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim seemed to come to the understanding that he’s not going to replace Melo in the middle, so they used smaller lineups to pressure the Wildcat guards and use more of a perimeter offense with sophomore James Southerland more in the mix. Cuse forced 13 turnovers, shot 6-of-9 from behind the 3-point line and Southerland went for 15 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. The Orange do a lot of things well, including 9.4 steals per game and a 1.49-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio – and no team has better depth than the Orange.
Wisconsin: The Badger defense was incredible all season, and never more so than in Saturday’s win over Vandy. Wisconsin held the Commodores’ talented duo of John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor to 22 points combined, nearly 15 points below their combined average. Few teams play better team defense than do the Badgers. They hold opponents to a nation-best 52.9 points per game. Teams have managed to shoot just 38.5 percent from the floor and 28.8 percent from the field, including allowing Vandy – one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams – to 5-for-19 from behind the arc. Taylor is one of the nation’s best floor leaders and is a solid go-to option with the game on the line.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Syracuse: Cuse did a nice job rebounding without Melo against a bigger K-State team, but it was still out-boarded 37-31 and allowed the Wildcats 22 offensive rebounds. That could be a big issue against a tough Badger squad. Without Melo, the Orange paint defense is limited, although they held K-State to 21-of-67 shooting on Saturday. They have allowed opponents to get to the foul line 585 times this season, another potential bad sign against Wisconsin, which has shot 563 itself.
Wisconsin: The Badgers have always won with defense, but this year’s Wisconsin team is particularly limited offensively. Even in a Round of 32 win over Vanderbilt, it managed to hit just 23-of-55 shots and 10-of-33 3-pointers. For the season, Wisconsin scores just 64 points per game and has scored 62 points or fewer in 18 of its last 35 games. For the season, the Badgers make just 42.5 percent of their shots from the field. They are also limited athletically. Against one of the nation’s most athletic and quickest teams, that will be a concern.
The Bottom Line: Jardine and Southerland star again as Syracuse pulls away late.
The Pick: Syracuse 69, Wisconsin 63
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1