University of Dayton freshman guard Scoochie Smith (11) speaks with reporters the day before a game against Syracuse in the third round of the NCAA tournament, March 21, 2014, at the First Niagara Center, in Buffalo, New York.
By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
A win in the NCAA Tournament means teams get to play another day. The University of Dayton men’s basketball team picked up a spectacular one in defeating The Ohio State University 60-59 on a last second shot by redshirt senior guard Vee Sanford in the final seconds Thursday, March 20.
UD now faces No. 3-seed Syracuse University Saturday, March 20, at 7:10 p.m. in the third round of the tournament at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
The two teams nearly met earlier this season in the championship game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational during November. Dayton came up one point short in the semifinals to Baylor University, who went on to lose to Syracuse in the finals.
Even though the meeting didn’t take place, it didn’t stop Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim from complementing his next opponent following his team’s second round win over Western Michigan University Thursday, March 18.
“Yeah, I saw them,” Boeheim said of Dayton in Hawaii. “I thought we were going to play them. They lost a very close game. … I thought they were really the second best team out there. They lost a one-point game that they probably should have won.”
Boeheim didn’t say who he thought was the best team in the competition, but it is safe to infer since his team won that tournament, he thinks it was them.
Either way, Dayton and Syracuse now get the chance to meet on a much larger stage, and most likely in front of a large pro-Syracuse crowd. Syracuse is a mere two hours away from the First Niagara Center. Dayton fans appeared to outnumber its second round opponent, The Ohio State University, but the Orange’s faithful still had the majority of the crowd in every session Thursday.
Syracuse primarily plays a 2-3 zone on defense, using its length to its advantage in stymieing its opponents. The Orange’s have five players at least 6-foot, 7-inches in height on its roster who receive at least eight minutes per game.
“They’re big. They’re really, really well coached and good,” head coach Archie Miller said. “We didn’t spend a ton of time watching them [in Maui] … Saw them one time because we played [the University of California] and they did as well. Size and the length of the zone can consume you if you let it. … It’s a typical Syracuse team.”
Boeheim said after his team’s game against WMU that he had plenty of film of his second round opponent attacking a zone but said most teams do the same thing each game to try and beat theirs.
Oliver said though each team’s version of the defense is same as any other.
“Most important thing is to continue to do what we do,” Oliver said. “The zone is the zone. It’s basketball, it’s always going to be there. I think we just have to focus on what we do as a team. … Don’t just settle for launching threes and playing around the perimeter.”
Syracuse and Dayton last met Nov. 28, 1977, at UD Arena, a 76-67 win for the Flyers.
When they meet Saturday, Miller said UD has to ramp up its pace of play and make the game one that is on the run.
He also said the later start time will make for a heck of a scene with many Syracuse fans expected to be in attendance, but that it means they’re also one step closer than others to surviving in the tournament.
“We get to last a little longer than everybody else that plays earlier in the day,” Miller said.”Couple games go by and you’re still alive.
Scoochie facing childhood favorite
Freshman guard Scoochie Smith was recruited out of the Bronx, N.Y., area.
Prior to coming to Dayton, “New York’s College Team,” as it’s imprinted on Syracuse’s media guide, was a favorite for him growing up.
“I actually thought I would be playing for them,” Smith said. “Fortunately, I’m playing for the University of Dayton.”
And his thoughts on the outcome of Saturday’s game?
“Looking forward to winning the game tomorrow,” he said.