Mar 13, 2012, 3:39 PM EST
The bulls-eye is now firmly on Syracuse, the top seed in the East.
The No. 16 seeds have never won an NCAA tournament game vs. a 1, going 0-108 since 1985. There have been close calls – Georgetown-Princeton in ’89, Michigan State-Murray State in ’90 – but it’s never happened. But as Ken Pomeroy notes, the 16s are rated unusually high this season.
By various ratings, Lamar is the best 16 seed that’s ever been in the field. Vermont and UNC Asheville are the fifth- and sixth-best.
Melo won’t play. North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, may not have starting power forward John Henson. Could this really be the year? Still seems doubtful.
Among the 10 best 16 seeds listed by Pomeroy, only ’09 East Tennessee State (lost 72-62 to Pitt) and ’86 Montana State (lost 83-74 to St. John’s) were close to pulling off wins. The 1s haven’t lost for reason. They’re better, and they have time to prepare for the opponent.
Syracuse’s margin for error is smaller, yes – in three games without Melo this season, the Orange were more like the 33rd best team, not the 4th – but it’s still a sizeable margin.
UNC Asheville (24-9) is small, scrappy team that likes to push the tempo. Even without Melo, Syracuse (31-2) has a decisive size advantage and guards in Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche who will handle pressure and create some of their own on the perimeter.
The only way Syracuse loses Thursday if it decides to pout and not play hard. The rest of the tournament? That’s another story.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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