There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the East Region’s second round matchup between #1 seed and still Fab Melo-less Syracuse and Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats.
Syracuse-Kansas State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #1 Syracuse v #8 Kansas State in East Region
- Syracuse-Kansas State Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Syracuse-Kansas State Tip Time: 12:15 ET
- Syracuse-Kansas State Location: Pittsburgh
- Syracuse-Kansas State TV: CBS
- Syracuse-Kansas State Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore
- Syracuse-Kansas State Point Spread: Syracuse -5
- Tickets: Syracuse-Kansas State Tickets
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Boston
Syracuse-Kansas State Analysis and Prediction
The matchup that became America’s favorite upset following the suspension of Fab Melo came to fruition with both Kansas State and Syracuse winning their opening games. The Wildcats got 30 points from Rodney McGruder and another 15 points and nine boards from Jordan Henriquez in a six-point win over Southern Miss. The Orange got all they could handle from UNC-Asheville but pulled away late to win by seven points and avoid being the first one seed to ever be upset by a sixteen. Syracuse was led by James Southerland, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
The aspect of this matchup that received the most focus following the Melo news is K-State’s ability on the offensive glass. They finished sixth in offensive rebounding percentage at 40.6, while Syracuse rank among the worst five teams in the nation of the defensive glass. Interestingly enough, the Wildcats grabbed just five offensive boards in their first round game with Southern Mississippi. Obviously, that’s going to be a huge factor in this game.
However, Syracuse has a huge defensive advantage in terms of field goal percentage defense on both twos and threes, and they are also sixth in turnover rate while Kansas State ranks 242nd on offense. Kansas State miscues could easily negate their advantage on the defensive glass, although there are sure to be plenty of errant shots based on both the Wildcats’ shooting percentages and Syracuse’s defense.
On the other end of the floor, the Orange appear to have an advantage on the offensive glass. They ranked 31st in offensive rebounding percentage while Kansas State ranked outside of the Top 200 in terms of defensive rebounding percentage. You can certainly attribute some of that to Melo, but the Orange do have other guys capable of crashing the glass, including Rakeem Christmas, who replaced Melo and grabbed five offensive rebounds in the opener.
Kansas State’s strength on the defensive end is a high turnover rate, but Syracuse takes great care of the basketball, ranking sixth offensively in turnover rate. Scoop Jardine and Bradon Triche will certainly be challenged defensively, but don’t expect them to cough it up left and right either.
Assuming this game is close (which is probably will be), free throw shooting will be critical. Unfortunately neither team is proficient at the line, but K-State’s 66.6 percent shooting from the stripe has certainly cost them games this season.
Syracuse definitely got a scare in the first round, which makes it easy to pick against them here. However, I think their ability to protect the basketball and force turnovers will be enough to give them the win.
Predicted Winner: Syracuse
Syracuse Orange Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 31-2 (17-1 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 12-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut (3), Florida, Georgetown, Louisville (2), Marquette, North Carolina State, South Florida, West Virginia
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Notre Dame
- Player to Watch: Dion Waiter (6’4” G, So.) – 12.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.9 spg
Syracuse Bottoms Line:
The Orange are among the deeper teams in the country with 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. Kris Joseph scores 13.8 points per game to lead seven players who average at least 6.6 points. Sixth man Dion Waiters is instant offense off the bench, and he also boasts one of the top steal percentages in the country. Scoop Jardine gives the Orange a veteran at the point, and he has posted a fantastic assist rate while also hitting nearly 55 percent of his two-pointers.
The team has lost just once with big man Fab Melo in the lineup, which says a lot about how much he has improved since a disappointing freshman campaign. Melo has a high block rate and does a nice job on the offensive boards, which will be missed. Fellow soph C.J. Fair has also played well of late and gives Syracuse yet another talented athlete in the frontcourt.
Overall, the Orange are in the Top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They do a great job of taking care of the ball and have a high offensive rebounding percentage. For as good as they are on the offensive glass, Syracuse as just as bad on the defensive end. They rank 341st in defensive rebounding percentage, and they allow opponents to rebounding nearly 39 percent of their misses. Other than that, the Orange are fantastic in all facets on the defensive end.
Kansas State Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: Big 12
- Record: 21-10 (10-8 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 6-8
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Baylor, Long Beach State, Missouri (2), Texas
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor (2), Iowa State (2), Kansas (2), Texas, West Virginia
- Player to Watch: Rodney McGruder (6’4” G, Jr.) – 15.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 spg, 39.0 3P%
Kansas State Bottoms Line:
The ever-entertaining Frank Martin’s team was on the bubble until beating Missouri and Baylor in back-to-back games to essentially lock up a bid. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats excel on the defensive end of the floor, ranking in the Top 25 in turnover rate and the Top 40 in effective field goal percentage defense. They do a nice job of defending both inside and outside of the three-point line, and their block percentage is among the nation’s best. Offensively, they rebound over 40 percent of their own misses and have been effective at getting to the free throw line, both of which have helped to offset relatively poor shooting and a propensity to turn the ball over.
Guard Rodney McGruder leads the team in scoring and has been the most consistent offensive threat this year. Jamar Samuels, Jordan Henriquez, and Thomas Gipson do the heavy lifting inside, and all three have high rebounding percentages and free throw rates over sixty. Guards Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling lead the team in assists, and both have eerily similar numbers. Rodriguez has a high assist rate, and the team is at its best when he is playing well.
Related: Jump to our East Region Bracket Breakdown