The NCAA Tournament's field has officially been trimmed to the Sweet 16, and local hoops program, the Syracuse basketball team, is still alive and need a few more victories to make the Final Four in New Orleans, La., March 31-April 2.
For the next few days, SB Nation New York will be breaking down the Orange's next March Madness contest against the Wisconsin Badger on Thursday in Boston, Ma (7:45 p.m. on CBS). For more on Syracuse vs. Wisconsin, check back to this StoryStream.
Meanwhile, here's Part II of our preview: Backcourt Breakdown
Possibly the nation's most underrated group of guards is sprinkled within the 2011-12 Syracuse roster. The Orange may not have the best one in the nation -- though sophomore guard Dion Waiters would tell you otherwise -- or the most dependable, as senior Scoop Jardine and junior Brandon Triche disappear at times. However, depth and compatibility-wise its tough to find a better group -- just ask McDonald's All-American Michael Carter-Williams, who rarely sees any playing time.
For the past two season, the motto has been: "As Scoop goes, as does the Syracuse offense." And there was no more perfect example of that than last Saturday, when the No. 1-seeded Orange downed the Kansas St. Wildcats, 75-59, in the Round of 32.
Ahead just 25-24 at halftime, mainly because Jardine was awful in the first half (zero points and four turnovers), the Orange used 16 points, a handful of assists and two turnovers from its floor general in the second to ease into the Sweet 16.
And if you take a second glance at Saturday's boxscore, one will see Waiters' game-high 18 points, including 12 in the first half. In Syracuse's last four postseason games, Waiters has been the Orange's most consistent player, scorer and spark (he comes off the bench) as he's averaged 19.0 points per game and is shooting a stellar 55.5-percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Triche is the secret weapon. Not only is the junior able to go off for 20 points on any given night (Triche has actually only done it once this season), but he can create havoc in the 2-3 zone defense.
Did I mention there's a dependable High School All-American sitting on the bench?
-- By Jared E. Smith (@JaredSmithCNY)
This season, senior guard Jordan Taylor's numbers are down nearly across the board. His points (14.7), assists (4.0) and rebounds per game (3.8) have all dropped, as has his field goal (.402), three-point (.359) and free-throw percentages (.785). After being named a preseason All-American, expectations for Taylor's individual statistics were undeniably inflated -- perhaps irrationally so.
Taylor's numbers have still been enough to carry the Badgers into late March, as Wisconsin's offense appears to have rounded into top shape over the last month. With that happening, UW's top-ranked scoring defense (allowing only 52.9 points per game) hasn't needed nearly as much help.
Alongside Taylor, sophomore guard Josh Gasser has built off his impressive freshman season to develop into one of Wisconsin's better all-around players. His numbers (7.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game) hardly leap off box scores, though they do reflect Gasser's ability as a player who can shoot from all around the court, rebound and defend. Quite frequently, the latter becomes the most important, as Gasser often defends the opposing team's best guard. Against Vanderbilt, Josh Gasser limited star guard John Jenkins to just 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
For more on the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket, stay with SB Nation's Selection Sunday StoryStream, and stick around SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for a complete printable NCAA Tournament bracket and tons of analysis on who was snubbed, who got the best bracket, and who will make it all the way to New Orleans and the Final Four.