After a rocky ending to the regular season the fifth-seeded Syracuse Orange will begin the postseason with a matchup with the 12th-seeded Seton Hall Pirates in the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Seton Hall fought tooth and nail to get to this point in the tournament as it earned a grueling 46-42 win in overtime against South Florida in the first round Tuesday night. The win was just the second for the Pirates since the end of January and its fourth against a league opponent all season.
Of the top six seeds, Syracuse is the one with the least amount of momentum as the postseason kicks off. The Orange, who were ranked as high as No. 3 in the country this season, lost four of their last five games to fall to 23-8 overall and 11-7 in league action. Syracuse is still a strong team with a legitimate shot at getting its sixth conference title.
Though both of these teams are charter members of the conference they have gone on different roads since the Big East formed in 1979. Syracuse has won 47 of total 66 meetings previously, including 76-65 win in the lone matchup this season. Whichever team comes out on top on Wednesday will challenge fourth- seed Pittsburgh in Thursday's quarterfinals.
The Pirates trailed by as many as eight points twice in the second half against the Bulls but they ended the period with eight straight points, six from star forward Fuquan Edwin, to force overtime. The two teams traded baskets in the first four minutes of the extra session but Seton Hall pull away in the final minute thanks again to Edwin who tallied four points during that span.
Edwin finished the contest with a game-high 17 points though he did need 17 shots to get there. The 6-foot-6 swingman (16.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 spg) is one of few bright spots this season for the Pirates as he is a gifted scorer and pesky defender, ranking second in the league in assists. Eugene Teague (11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is a strong contributor in the frontcourt as he proved against South Florida by hanging up a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double. Aaron Cosby (12.3 ppg) can also score but had trouble finding his shot against the Bulls when he scored eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Syracuse was the second-highest scoring team in the Big East this season but it certainly didn't look like it in the regular-season finale. The Orange were dropped, 61-39, by long-time rival Georgetown during one of their worst offensive efforts this season. The Orange shot just 31.9 percent from the field and missed all but one of their 11 shots from 3-point range.
One of the major reasons for Syracuse's downfall in the stretch run was the struggles of Brandon Triche. The senior guard (13.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) was one the leading scorers for the Orange this season but failed to score in double figures in three of the last four contests including a season-low two points on 1-of-9 shooting against Georgetown. C.J. Fair (14.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) finished the season as the leading scorer for the Orange and earned second-team honors in the Big East. Big East leader in assists Michael Carter-Williams (12.5 ppg, 7.6 apg) was also on the second-team, while being named Big East Comeback Player of the Year. James Southerland (13.6 ppg) can shoot the lights out as well for the Orange but he had just a single point while missing all eight shots from the floor against Georgetown.