The No. 3-seeded Syracuse Orange will try to advance to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 for the third time in as many years Sunday night, but a familiar Big East Conference foe, the No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles, stand in their way in a third-round East Regional contest (7:45 p.m. on truTV) in Cleveland, OH. The winner of the matchup will advance to play either No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels or No. 7 Washington Huskies in the region's semifinals held in Newark, N.J.
On Friday, the Orange (27-7) easily defeated No. 14 Indiana State Sycamores, 77-60, to earn their fifth NCAA Tournament victory in three years. Senior forward Rick Jackson netted a team-best 23 points and seven rebounds to guide Syracuse to its second-round victory. SU's hopes of moving on hinge on Jackson's play, which usually features 13.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. The Big East Defensive Player Of The Year will also need a better performance Sunday than he did on Jan. 29 -- a 76-70 loss to Marquette that featured Jackson netting 14 points, but collecting just four rebounds.
If Jackson struggles then SU's outside shooting will need to propel the Orange. Junior forward Kris Joseph, SU's leading scorer with 14.3 ppg, has been the leader of SU's outside attack. However, during the Orange's last six games, junior point guard Scoop Jardine (12.7 ppg) has been shooting a blazing 48.4 percent from behind the 3-point arc (31 attempts). On the flip side, sophomore guard Brandon Triche (11.2 ppg) is shooting just 29.4 percent from 3-point land in SU's last three games.
Off the bench, freshman forward C.J. Fair, who tallied 14 bench points on Thursday, has been outstanding. Fair scored 10 points in the Orange's last meeting with Marquette.
In that victory, Marquette was successful in both going through and shooting over SU's famous 2-3 zone defense. Junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom netted 12 of his 17 points in the first half, while senior guard Jimmy Butler scored 19 on 6-of-12 shooting. Crowder, who is a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder with an athletic build, was deadly from both inside and out, making 8-of-16 attempts and collecting seven rebounds.
The key for a Golden Eagles victory will be for Crowder to repeat his versatile play and for Butler (15.9 ppg) and Johnson-Odom, the team's leading scorer with 16.0 ppg, to sink shots from the outside.
Game notes: The pairing between two conference squads is not the norm for the NCAA Tournament, but this will be the second time that two of the 11 Big East invitees will meet each other in the 68-team field. On Saturday, the No. 3 Connecticut Huskies defeated No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats, 69-58, to move on to the West Regional semifinals held in Anaheim, CA.... Overall this season, Marquette is scoring 75.8 ppg while allowing 68.7 ppg to opponents.
-- Some information for this piece was provided by Sports Network.