NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Size versus speed. Our next match represents a classic stylistic battle. One team starts a traditional lineup with a seven-footer, flanked by a massive power forward and a “small” forward who weighs 240 pounds. The other team starts no traditional power players, substituting shooting ability and lineup flexibility for size and strength. Which team will enforce their will upon the other? The battle between the NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats represents a clash of basketball philosophies.

NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Key Matchups

Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott vs. Derrick Coleman – This series may hinge on which team’s forwards adapt better defensively. Arizona will go key stretches of each game hoping to survive with Richard Jefferson guarding Derrick Coleman. Conversely, Coleman will have to get comfortable guarding the perimeter and switching defensively on to smaller, quicker players. How badly will Coleman punish the smaller Wildcats on the block? Can Arizona expose DC on the perimeter and force Syracuse to downsize? Coleman may be better served defensively playing as the five in the series, since…

Rony Seikaly vs. perimeter shooting – …this matchup isn’t going to work out defensively for Syracuse. Seikaly is ill-equipped to extend his defense out to the perimeter, and would be toast when Arizona runs pick and pop with one of their perimeter options and Channing Frye. Syracuse can counter by posting Seikaly up and trying to get Frye into foul trouble, so Arizona can bring in more traditional big men off the bench. This adjustment may also have to occur if and when Syracuse punishes Arizona on the glass, as detailed below.

Two-point field goals vs. Three-point field goals – The game of basketball has evolved to the point that one team is currently averaging over 40 three-point field goal attempts per game in the 2016-17 season (Houston). The three point shot has become the most important weapon in the sport. Expect Arizona to run wild from behind the arc, while Syracuse will try to keep pace with a more traditional offensive attack.

Biggest Mismatches

Syracuse’s rebounding advantage – Arizona is dead in the water in any game where their threes aren’t falling, because Syracuse should own them on the offensive and defensive boards. Seikaly and Coleman were excellent rebounders, which can’t be said for anybody in Arizona’s starting lineup. Arizona has two options to stop the bleeding on the glass: Jordan Hill, a tenacious rebounder with a limited offensive and defensive skill set, and Bison Dele, a less tenacious rebounder who was very skilled offensively and could make the Syracuse big men work defensively. Both players will see a lot of time, but Dele will be particularly busy as Arizona’s sole threatening post-up option. Unless they play together, Syracuse will see plenty of second and third shot opportunities on offense, and will limit Arizona’s attempts on the other end of the court.

Arizona’s three-point advantage – Each team has a clear path to victory. If Syracuse can slow the pace and make this a half-court battle, Dave Bing, Carmelo Anthony, and their superior rebounders should make them victorious. Arizona will play uptempo, and bomb from long-range with Jason Terry, Mike Bibby, Channing Frye, Gilbert Arenas, Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, and the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage Steve Kerr leading the charge. If several of these players are knocking down their shots, Syracuse will have a difficult time keeping up.

Arizona’s depth – Arizona has quality depth throughout their bench, and will use a variety of options each game. Several of their bench players, such as Mike Bibby and Sean Elliott, are as good as the players who start above them, and they’ll utilize a hot-hand approach throughout the matchup. Syracuse has a clear drop off whenever they turn to their inferior second unit. Expect Danny Schayes and Billy Owens to earn the bulk of their bench minutes, with the other players mixing in as needed, but Syracuse’s starting lineup will carry a heavy burden in each game.


Evolution of NBA basketball – One key aspect of this tournament is that modern-day rules are in effect. This should be a huge advantage for Arizona, who will benefit from less hand-checking on the perimeter on offense, and more creative ways to guard post players on defense. Non-traditional, smaller lineups are also in vogue, though certain teams, including the incomparable Spurs, manage to thrive with traditional, bigger lineups.


Throughout their history, Syracuse Orange alums have been sporadically successful in the NBA, and have underachieved relative to their success in college. While the school has produced two hall-of-fame players (Bing and Anthony), the rest of their roster is littered with underachievers and players who are not necessarily suited for the modern game. Arizona, led by the defensive mastery of Andre Iguodala, and an overabundance of three-point firepower, moves on to the second round.

Wildcats win, four games to two.

Next Round

Arizona faces the NBA UCLA Bruins.

NBA Syracuse Orange

NBA Syracuse Orange

Our next school has produced a volatile mix of NBA talent. While they’ve produced two Hall-of-Fame caliber players, a high percentage of their draftees have not reached the heights they were originally projected for. While their long-standing coach, Jim Boeheim, is a college basketball titan, his track record of preparing players for the NBA has been spotty. Overall, the NBA Syracuse Orange team is flawed, but their Hall-of-Fame duo gives them a fighting chance to advance in our tournament.

Sherman Douglas, the starting point guard, had a solid 12-year career as a floor general for a string of also-rans in the 1990s. However, he was undersized for his position (6’0”), and did not have three-point shooting range, which limits his value to this team. His backcourt mate, Hall-of-Famer Dave Bing, could do it all on the offensive end of the court. He played both guard positions, and led the league in total points in his second season, which started a four-year stretch where he averaged 25.2 PPG and 6.1 APG. An eye injury limited his availability in the 1972 season, and he was never quite the same scorer afterwards, but his playmaking skills were sharp as ever, leading to him averaging 7.4 APG over the next three seasons. Ideally, his drive and kick ability would be complemented by a great shooter, but this team is lacking in that department. Michael Carter-Williams, the backup point guard, has been a woeful outside shooter throughout his short career, which has unfortunately overshadowed his many positive attributes. His length is an asset on the defensive end of the court, another area where this team may struggle, which should create a prominent role for him in the rotation. Dion Waiters is the team’s most prolific three-point threat, but he has yet to find any consistency over his five-year career.

The starting forwards, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Coleman, are two of the more talented players at their positions. Anthony is one of the great scorers in the modern game, and can toggle between both forward positions. He’s been burdened by his lack of playoff success, but he’ll serve as this team’s go-to option down the stretch of games, where he’s thrived throughout his career. Coleman, the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, had a solid if unspectacular career, in spite of his immense talent. He had every skill you could possibly want from a big man, but never put it all together on a consistent basis. He did make two all-NBA teams (in 1993 and 1994), and could punish smaller players in the post when motivated. Off the bench, Billy Owens was a versatile wing who had his best seasons early in his career. While largely regarded as a draft bust, he averaged 15.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 3.4 APG on 51.3% shooting in the first three seasons of his career, before having limited success thereafter. Louis Orr and Hakim Warrick were limited forwards who don’t move the needle for this team.

While Syracuse will go long stretches with Coleman at center and Anthony at power forward, they will start each game off with Rony Seikaly manning the middle next to this duo. Seikaly was a voracious rebounder who doubled as a solid scorer in his prime. He’s backed up by Danny Schayes, who had an interminable career mainly as a solid backup. He experienced his best years with Denver from 1988 to 1990, where he toggled between power forward and center and accumulated impressive advanced statistics, including a 62.7% three-year true shooting percentage and .172 win shares per 48 minutes. Etan Thomas will serve as the emergency third center when the others get into foul trouble.

One may expect the NBA Syracuse Orange to be better based on their college success. While they have a large number of players who haven’t panned out in the NBA, they have several stalwarts who will have to assume a large burden for them to get by their first round opponent.

All-Time Brooklyn Nets vs. All-Time Los Angeles Clippers

Our next match features two big-market teams that have accomplished very little in their time in the NBA. While the Nets had a brief run as a juggernaut in the ABA, they’ve mostly been a laughingstock since, save for a noteworthy stint behind a Hall-of-Fame point guard in the 2000s. The Clippers had a promising start as the Buffalo Braves, but then became the worst franchise in sports, before finally trading for another Hall-of-Fame point guard and becoming an annual contender over the past four seasons. These point guards are the featured match up in the battle between the All-Time Brooklyn Nets vs. All-Time Los Angeles Clippers, which will produce an unlikely second round participant in our tournament.

Brooklyn’s Advantages

Balance: The Nets have a well-constructed starting lineup. They have a low post scorer (Derrick Coleman) along with a bruising rebounder (Buck Williams). They have two athletic wings, both of whom can shoot from deep and slash to the rim (Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson). They also have a great floor general who will double as their premier perimeter defender (Jason Kidd). This unit will cause trouble for the Clippers’ power forward heavy lineup.

Wing Depth: The Nets are well-positioned to take advantage of one of Los Angeles’s biggest weaknesses, wing depth. Carter, Jefferson, and Kerry Kittles are all between 6’5” and 6’7”, and are all supremely athletic. Los Angeles may have to play at a slower pace to mitigate this issue and wear Brooklyn out with their assortment of big men.

Brooklyn’s Question Marks

Star Power: This is a relative term; the Nets have a potential Hall-of-Fame backcourt and all-stars littered throughout their roster. However, they only have two players with a PER above 20, and Carter has their highest WS/48 total at .148, a relatively low team-high compared to other franchises in this tournament. The Clippers appear to have more high-end talent, especially in their starting lineup, even if the pieces don’t fit together perfectly.

Los Angeles’s Advantages

Rebounding: The Clippers are starting three big men (Blake Griffin, Elton Brand, and Bob McAdoo), and have two former rebounding champions coming off their bench (Swen Nater and DeAndre Jordan). They should be able to control the glass in this series, and to wear out the Nets’ frontcourt in the process.

Los Angeles’s Question Marks

Spacing: How will the starting lineup function with Griffin nominally playing at small forward? Will the combination of Griffin, Brand, and McAdoo get in each other’s way, or mesh to form a dominant frontcourt?


Can the Nets exploit the Clippers big man lineup? The key for the Clippers will be Griffin, who has the athleticism to play credibly at small forward. Expect Doc Rivers to stagger Griffin, Brand, and McAdoo’s minutes after the opening of each game, and to play the athletic Corey Maggette heavy minutes at the three.


The Clippers have been an NBA wasteland for the majority of their existence. However, they had a few respectable seasons back in their Buffalo Braves days, and they’ve been elite since Chris Paul has teamed up with Blake Griffin. They also lucked out by drawing the moribund Nets as their first-round tournament opponent. I can’t believe I’m about to type this. Do you believe in miracles?


Clippers win, four games to three.

Next Round

Los Angeles takes on the All-Time Pistons.

All-Time Brooklyn Nets Team

All-Time Brooklyn Nets Team Infographic

The All-Time Brooklyn Nets team is…lacking. It’s lacking the clear-cut greatest player in franchise history, Julius Erving, because he only played three seasons with the franchise (sorry Nets fans, but these are the rules of our tournament). It’s also lacking other greats such as Rick Barry and Drazen Petrovic, due to the same longevity issue. What we’re left with is an underwhelming group that reflects the team’s standing as an NBA also-ran and fails to adequately commemorate their two ABA championships. Even though those championships make them our 11th seeded team, their lack of high-end talent makes them susceptible to an early-round exit.

Since Erving is ineligible, the great Jason Kidd is the team’s best player, and is one of only three players to be a member of three of our all-time franchise teams (along with Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal). Kidd led the Nets through an historically weak Eastern Conference and to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by Vince Carter, an elite scorer in his time with the franchise, who represented them on three all-star teams. While the Carter-Kidd backcourt failed to put the team over the top from 2005 to 2008, they had complementary skill sets, and were lethal in the open court. They’re backed up by another three-time all-star, Bill Melchionni, who twice led the ABA in assists and was a contributor to the two championship teams in 1974 and 1976. Kenny Anderson, the talented New York product who never lived up to the enormous expectations placed on him, will serve as the third point guard. Otis Birdsong, a one-time all-star with the Nets, will back up Carter along with Kerry Kittles, a solid all-around player who ranks in the top ten in team history in field goals, three pointers, total points, and steals.

While Richard Jefferson, the starting small forward, was not Erving or Barry, he was a dynamic wing who played well off of Kidd. He became a competent three point shooter in his latter years with the franchise, and provided elite athleticism for his size. Buck Williams is the greatest big man in franchise history, and is the all-time Nets leader in games, minutes, field goals, free throws, rebounds (total, offensive, and defensive), rebounds per game, total points, and win shares. They’re backed up Kenyon Martin, a plus two-way player, who provided toughness and athleticism from the power forward position. Although he’s infamous for his 3-for-23 shooting performance in game six of the 2003 NBA Finals, Martin’s offensive game was well-suited for a complementary role, which he should be able to assume as an off-the-bench contributor for this team.

Although he was a natural power forward, Derrick Coleman will serve as the team’s starting center. Coleman was one of the most talented big men of the 1990s, who, unfortunately, developed a horrible reputation during his time with the franchise. Like Anderson, he didn’t live up to the enormous expectations placed upon him, but he was a two-time all-NBA selection who averaged a double-double in his Nets career. Off the bench, Billy Paultz was an elite ABA big man who was an excellent shooter for his size. Brook Lopez, the team’s current center, will also get minutes as a dangerous scoring threat who can use his elite size (7’0” 275 lb) to protect the rim.

This team consists of many solid pieces, but does not have the mix of hall-of-fame legends that many of their competitors in our tournament boast. They have an intriguing first-round match up with the Los Angeles Clippers, another also-ran who has only recently developed into a competitive franchise.

Coach: Kevin Loughery

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .440