What to Expect as Syracuse Faces Oklahoma State in the First Round
By Brittany Ehrlich
What: NCAA Tournament First Round
Where: Starkville, Mississippi
When: Saturday, March 17 @ 3:30 p.m.
Who: Syracuse (22-8, 10-6 ACC) vs. Oklahoma State (20-10, 11-7 Big 12)
On Monday, the Orange were seeded at the number eight spot in the NCAA Tournament field, sending them to the NCAA First Round in Starkville, Mississippi. Syracuse (22-8, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) will square off against nine-seeded Oklahoma State (20-10, 11-7 Big 12) in the Kansas City Region. The game will tip-off Saturday, March 17 at approximately 3:30 p.m. Here are three key matchups to look out for ahead of tomorrow night’s tip-off
Battle of the Point Guards
Perhaps the most exciting matchup to watch Saturday night will be between Tiana Mangakahia and Loryn Goodwin.
Goodwin was named the league’s newcomer of the year and to the Big 12 All-Defensive team as well. As the Big 12’s leading scorer at 21.1 points per game, she also leads the conference with her 3.5 steals per game. Goodwin is fourth in assists at 5.3 per game, fifth in assist-turnover ratio (2.0) and sixth with her six double-doubles on the year.
Mangakahia, who was selected to the First Team All-ACC, led the Orange by pacing the country in assists (297) and assists per game (9.9). She led the team in scoring, recording nearly 100 points more than anyone else on the squad, and shot an impressive 89.3 percent from the free throw line. She twice tallied 14 assists against an ACC opponent (Miami and North Carolina) and set a program record for assists in a game (17) against Vanderbilt earlier this season.
If Mangakahia can continue to limit her turnovers that will be the key to success for the Orange.
Syracuse lives and dies by the three. The Orange shot .314 from downtown and made 9.7 per game. When shooting above .300 from three, Syracuse is 13-4. Syracuse also broke the ACC record, which the Orange previously held, for 3-pointers in a game with 20 in an 86-80 road win over North Carolina on Feb. 22.
Oklahoma State also depends on the three. When shooting above .300 from downtown the Cowgirls are 14-4. Oklahoma State shot .333 from three on the season and averaged 6.9 made per game.
Syracuse attempts way more threes though 930 on the season compared to Oklahoma States 625. If Syracuse wants to win they must knock down those downtown opportunities.
Neither team has much experience in the tournament on the court but both head coaches do.
The Cowgirls return to the field of 64 after competing in the WNIT a year ago. Prior to that, they had made four consecutive NCAA appearances under Jim Littell.
OSU has been to three Sweet 16 appearances with the most recent coming in 2014.
Syracuse (22-8) is making its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and its second straight as a No. 8 seed. Last year, the Orange defeated Iowa State before losing to Connecticut. This is Quentin Hillsman’s sixth appearance in the tournament.
SU’s most successful tournament run came to in 2016, losing to UConn in the national championship.
Syracuse only has one returning starter in Gabrielle Cooper and two other players who have appeared in the tournament, Abby Grant and Brandy Fowler. OSU has four players who have appeared in the tournament in Mandy Coleman, LaTashia Jones, Karli Wheeler and Kaylee Jensen.
Whichever team plays better under the pressure will be a key difference in this matchup. In the ACC tournament Syracuse didn’t rise to the occasion. It’ll need big play on all fronts if it wants to in the big dance?
@BrittEhrlich | email@example.com