Syracuse-Indiana Sweet-16 Preview
SWEET 16 DRAMA: IS INDIANA READY FOR THE SYRACUSE ZONE?
The nation is learning once again this year that the Syracuse zone is very tough to deal with the first time you see it. Montana looked like a junior high team in the Round of 64 against the Orange. California managed to go only 4 of 21 on three-pointers while losing the ball 17 times in the Round of 32. We've reached the Sweet 16...and now it's time for popular championship pick Indiana to deal with that Syracuse web of destruction.
The good news for Hoosiers fans:
The team has GREAT offensive talent
The team has had a few days to prepare rather than just one
The team got a wake-up call vs. Temple, which will eliminate overconfidence
The game is being played in a basketball arena rather than a football stadium
Try shooting over the zone with a strange, cavernous backdrop!
If you love big time basketball, this is going to be a great game with a great atmosphere. If you love the intricacies of chess in sneakers...then it's hard to imagine something more fascinating than watching the Indiana offense vs. the Syracuse defense. That's why we picked this game for showcase coverage here in the Thursday NOTEBOOK. Let's run the showdown through our gauntlet of indicators...
Syracuse: 28-9 (11-7 in the Big East)
Indiana: 29-6 (14-4 in the Big 10)
Indiana grades out very well here, with fewer losses in a tougher conference. And, given the showing so far in the Dance, there may be even more distance between the Big 10 and Big East than previously realized. Georgetown and Pitt laid big eggs the first time they took the floor. Marquette should have lost to Davidson and was very lucky to survive Butler. On the other hand...Syracuse faded late in league play against teams who had seen their zone already. Indiana hasn't seen it!
Syracuse: #10 with Sagarin, #12 with Pomeroy
Indiana: #3 with Sagarin, #3 with Pomeroy
Very consistent rankings there from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. Indiana is still a serious national title threat (though you could argue they haven't been playing at a #3 level the past few weeks). Syracuse is a legitimate Sweet 16 team that made it exactly as deep as they were supposed to.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Syracuse: #18 with Sagarin, #19 with Pomeroy
Indiana: #13 with Sagarin, #17 with Pomeroy
Very similar strengths of schedule, as both teams aren't afraid of giving themselves a few early season challenges before going to war in tough conferences. Virtually identical schedule strengths according to the computers. Though, if you believe that the Big East has been exposed as slightly overrated...then you'd give the Hoosiers a bigger edge than those rankings would suggest.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
Syracuse takes a hit here because good teams can beat them once they've seen the zone. Sagarin has a few Big East teams in his top 50 obviously. The Orange did do well in rematches in the Big East tourney before facing Louisville...but that was keyed by ridiculously hot three-point shooting. Indiana gets the edge in this stat however you slice it. It's this stat that shows you why they're about 10 spots ahead in the computer ratings too. Win two-thirds of your games against top teams in a deep season...and you're going to get respect from computers and polls.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Here we go! Indiana's got the best offense in the country according to Pomeroy's methodology that adjusts for tempo and strength of schedule. They attack the basket. They push the ball and force defensive mistakes. They have guys who can score off the dribble. Yet, much of that disappeared vs. Temple in a way that suggests it could disappear against the Syracuse zone. We can't wait to see how that plays out!
Let's not lose sight of the Syracuse offense here. They were too reliant on three-pointers for our taste in the Big East tournament. We don't have them that high offensively in our proprietary numbers. But...this is certainly a group that can get hot and take down Indiana.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Syracuse grades out as top 10 for the year even though rematches pulled them down some. They would probably grade out top five if you only counted "first look" situations...which is what Indiana is in. The Hoosiers play better defensively than is realized. Their faster than average tempo has tricked some in the media into thinking their scorers are making up for a soft defense. Basically, Indiana has a very good defense and a fantastic offense was you make the proper adjustments.
POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
This is what we mean about Indiana's pace. They're not quite top 100...but they're well above average. If they didn't have such a weak bench, they'd probably play even faster. With the game on the line, they're going to attack. That could play right into Syracuse's hands of Indiana's aggression leads to badly timed turnovers. Syracuse isn't super-slow...but they may choose to play that way just to prevent Indiana from getting into its comfort zone. This is another great part of the chess match to watch. Can Syracuse turn into Wisconsin? A team that beat Indiana TWICE this year away from Madison?
The data lays things out pretty well. If Syracuse can slow things down, make some treys, and disrupt Indiana with that zone...then they can easily match what Wisconsin did and take down the Hoosiers on a neutral court. But...if the zone can't slow down that great Indiana offense, and the chemistry issues that seemed to plague the Orange late in the season resume...we're looking at an Indiana blowout. Remember that Syracuse almost went 0-3 vs. Georgetown...Georgetown didn't last a game...and Indiana's a lot better than Georgetown! A lot of volatility here with a game that could end up 10 points away in either direction of a Vegas spread that's been in the 5-6 range for Indiana since the open.
JIM HURLEY is really looking forward to this year's Sweet 16. The matchups are perfect for his computer simulation programs that play out every game thousands of times. You can go game-by-game through the schedule and see that that's so valuable! JIM HURLEY will also be in contact with his on-site sources in Washington and Los Angeles (tonight's host locales) for any behind-the-scenes news, as well as his sources in Las Vegas and offshore that monitor the smart money.
You can purchase Thursday Night's picks right here at the website with your credit card. You'll get the best from:
Syracuse vs. Indiana
Marquette vs. Miami
Arizona vs. Ohio State
LaSalle vs. Wichita State
LA Lakers at Milwaukee (big game in the NBA)
Indiana at Dallas (ditto!)
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Back with you Friday for an expanded look at Michigan State/Duke. That may be the single most anticipated Sweet 16 showdown amidst a fantastic schedule. Big game coverage continues through the weekend here in the NOTEBOOK
You're going to be parked in front of the TV all night Thursday to enjoy these dream matchups. WATCH AND WIN with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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