All-time series: First ever meeting
Date: Sunday, March 20
Time: 6:10 p.m. ET
Location: Scottrade Center (St. Louis, Missouri)
MTSU is coming off the biggest win in program history, a 90-81 upset of 2nd-seeded Michigan State on Friday. The Blue Raiders made 11 3-pointers on 18 attempts, and shot 56 percent from the floor. It was their first win over a team with an RPI of 90 or better.
Middle Tennessee's 3-point offense is roughly 33 percent of their overall scoring, which could be dangerous against SU's 2-3 zone. The Orange will have to extend out on the shooters, especially Giddy Potts, who is statistically the best shooter in the country. He's currently shooting a nation-best 50.4 percent from behind the arc, and went 3-of-5 against Michigan State. He finished with 19 points in 39 minutes of action.
Michigan State was regarded as the country's best 3-point shooting team, as well as rebounding, but don't tell MTSU that. The Spartans only had two more rebounds than the Blue Raiders, while MTSU matched each of MSU's 3-pointers.
Three things to watch:
1. Defend the 3: MTSU shoots the 3 as good as any team in the country. If Gbinije, Cooney and Howard don't get out on the 3-point shooters at the top of the zone, SU could be in the trouble Sunday evening. On paper, the Orange shouldn't be worried about MTSU's inside game, but don't take it lightly either. Despite relying on the 3-ball a lot, Syracuse can't be lackadaisical against the Blue Raiders in the paint.
2. Tyler Roberson: Syracuse is a different team when Tyler Roberson plays the way he did on Friday. The junior can rebound with the nation's best, but when he doesn't show up, he's virtually a wash. Which Tyler Roberson will show up on Sunday? For SU's sake, hopefully the same one that we saw against Dayton and Duke.
3. Free throw: The Orange went 20-for-23 from the free-throw line against Dayton on Friday, which was vastly overlooked. Not only was Syracuse consistent at the line, but it sent the right players to the line. Malachi Richardson went 8-of-9, Tyler Lydon went 5-of-6 and Trevor Cooney went 3-of-4. Gbinije and Roberson each converted on both of their attempts. If the Orange can duplicate its performance on Sunday, it should be in good position to advance to the Sweet 16.