The Syracuse basketball program will appear in its fifth NCAA Tournament game in three years Friday night as the No. 3-seeded Orange play No. 14 Indiana St. Sycamores in a second-round contest at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The winner will advance to the third round and play either No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles or No. 6 Xavier Musketeers on Sunday.
The matchup features two historic college basketball programs which have never faced each other. Though SU's postseason history is more lucrative (33 tournament appearances and four Final Fours) than the Sycamores (three appearances to one Final Four) the contest should still have an old-school feel.
Despite scoring just 66.5 points per game, Indiana State (20-13) earned the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament automatic bid by defeating the Missouri State Bears, 60-56, on March 6. Senior Aaron Carter netted a game-best 15 points for the Sycamores, who won despite having their leading scorer, Dwayne Lathan (11.0 ppg), tally just four points.
Lathan, a 6-foot-3 guard, shoots 41.3 percent from the floor, while Carter is Indiana State's fourth-best scorer (8.7 ppg), but its only consistent 3-point threat (34.8 percent on 141 attempts). Carl Richard, a 6-5 guaurd-forward, is Indiana State's second-best scorer (9.8 ppg) and top rebounder (6.6 rpg). Freshman guard Jake Odum (9.4 ppg) also contributes.
For Syracuse, which is playing maybe its best basketball of the season, its looking for its third straight trip to the round of 16. Last season, the Orange earned a No. 1 seed, advance to the Sweet 16 where they lost to Final Four member Butler, who lost in the National Championship game to Duke.
The Orange (26-7) have won six of their last seven games, which included road victories over Georgetown Hoyas and Villanova Wildcats, who are both NCAA Tournament teams. SU was on a six-game winning streak until the Connecticut Huskies downed the Orange, 76-71, in overtime of the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
Syracuse is led by senior forward Rick Jackson, who is averaging 13.0 ppg and 10.6 rpg. The 6-9 big-man has easily been SU's most consent player all season. The same cannot be said for junior point guard Scoop Jardine (12.8 ppg and 5.8 assists per game), who at times plays brilliantly but other times creates a lot of headaches (2.8 turnovers per game).
Overall, the Orange are limiting opponents to 63.3 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting from the field. They are generating 73.6 ppg at the offensive end and are pulling down 3.6 rpg more than the opposition. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is aiming to lead the Orange to their fourth Final Four in as many decades.
-- Want more Big East Conference coverage? Check out the SB Nation New York's special NCAA Tournament page, which will bring you live updates throughout Friday's contests. If you'd like a national scope, check out SB Nation's NCAA Tournament page.
Friday, Mar 18, 2011, 9:57 PM EDT
Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio