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.

X-Factor

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.

Results

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 Miami Heat Team

All-Time Miami Heat Team Infographic

Is this the new dominant NBA franchise? After only 27 years of existence, the All-Time Miami Heat team has a mix of dominant wings, Hall of Fame big men, and clutch point guard play. With three championships in that short time, they enter our tournament as the ninth seed.

The team’s only true point guard is Tim Hardaway, who helped them amass a .664 win percentage during his five full seasons with the franchise (the equivalent of 54 wins per season). Although he no longer had the speed and quickness from his Golden State days, he was a clutch performer with Miami, and finished fourth and sixth in the MVP voting in 1997 and 1998. The starting shooting guard is the franchise’s signature player, Dwyane Wade, who’s emerged as one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. John Hollinger rated Wade’s 2006 NBA Finals performance as the greatest ever, and he’s led the league in scoring (2009), playoff scoring (2010), and PER (2007) during his Heat career.

Remember what I said about Milwaukee’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? The same applies for Miami’s LeBron James, who might be the most versatile player in this tournament. James’s ‘four years of college’ produced an NBA Finals appearance in every season, a 27 game winning streak, and the only two regular season MVP awards in franchise history. The underappreciated Chris Bosh is the starter at power forward. Bosh’s deadly midrange game fits beautifully alongside Wade’s slashing game and James’s all-court dominance.

Hall-of-Famer and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Alonzo Mourning is the team’s starting center. Mourning dominated the paint defensively, and putting him alongside James (a dominant defender), and Wade and Bosh (solid defenders) will make this team very difficult to score against.

This team’s bench consists of long-range shooters and big bodies. Expect Eddie Jones and Glen Rice to get plenty of minutes alongside James and Wade to space the floor. Jones was a good all-around player who defended wings very well, and Rice will play small forward when this team downsizes and places James at the four. Voshon Leonard is another three-point shooter who will play sparingly behind Hardaway, Wade, and Jones. P.J. Brown and Brian Grant provide nice size at power forward. Brown was a very solid defender, and both bring toughness and energy off the bench. Shaquille O’Neal and Rony Seikaly are the bench’s centers. Although Shaq was past his prime, he could still score on anybody one-on-one, and he finished second in the MVP voting in his first year with the franchise.

This team should be exceptionally versatile, largely due to James. Want to play big? Play James at point guard. Want to play small? Play him at power forward. Need a defensive stop? Have James guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player, and trot out a lineup of Wade, Jones, James, Brown, and Mourning. While their bench isn’t great, they have many effective players who fit well around their superstars. Despite the franchise’s youth, this team holds great potential, and will be a threat to advance far in our tournament.

Coach: Erik Spoelstra

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .518