HOW THEY GOT IN: At-large bid
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: The Catamounts have a strong inside game, with Marqus Blakely and Evan Fjeld both able to get quality high-percentage shots in the paint. Maurice Joseph, a transfer from Michigan State, is the top threat in the backcourt and averaged 14.1 points per game. Vermont had problems scoring most of the year, and though they have been running the offense more efficiently over the past month they don't shoot the ball well from the outside, and have struggled with turning the ball over, averaging 14 miscues per game.
GO-TO GUYS: It all starts with Big East Player of the Year Wes Johnson, who emerged as a superstar after sitting out last season as a transfer from Iowa State. He's the most explosive player on the Orange and can score from anywhere, but he's far from the only weapon on the team. Andy Rautins is deadly from the outside, and is shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. Kris Joseph was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year and is the team's third-leading scorer despite coming off the bench.
THEY'LL KEEP WINNING IF: They keep their heads up. Syracuse enters the NCAA Tournament on a two-game losing streak, and this is a team that was picked to finish sixth in the Big East in the preseason. If it loses that swagger, it's vulnerable. If not, the Orange have the talent to cut down the nets, since it has the weapons to score from anywhere on the court and a defense that is second nature to the Orange but is incredibly difficult for opponents to prepare for.
STRENGTHS: Syracuse is disciplined on both ends of the court. It led the Big East in assists, and is patient enough to demand good shots and good enough to hit them. Wes Johnson is all but impossible to guard once he gets on a roll, and few defenders can stay with him both in the paint and beyond the arc. With Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine coming off the bench, few teams have reserves that make that kind of an impact. Arinze Onuaku is automatic when he gets the ball in position to score inside, and Andy Rautins can put up a dozen points in a minute if a defense isn't careful. This is a confident team that can win anywhere; it went 8-1 on the road in Big East play.
WEAKNESSES: One big weakness for the Orange is health. Arinze Onuaku hurt his knee in the loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, but it is likely he will be ready to play in the early rounds of the NCAAs. If he isn't himself, the Orange get much less intimidating inside. Johnson has gotten banged up as the Big East season has worn on and doesn't look as explosive to the basket as he did in January. As good as he is, he's not the kind of player teams will consider sending double- or triple-team defense at. Rautins is a great shooter, but he's streaky and doesn't force things, so a disciplined defense can take him out of the game by putting a body on him and not switching. Louisville swept Syracuse by getting good shots with dribble-penetration followed by a kickout to the open shooters, the strategy that seems to work best at stopping the Orange zone.