Dayton to make Cuse's NCAA stay a short one?

Dayton to make Cuse's stay a short one?

Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are back in the Big Dance – outside criticism be damned.

After last February’s self-imposed postseason ban, the Orange gained favor with the selection committee this year. Not everyone responded warmly, however, citing the program’s 19-13 record and generally iffy body of work.

But all of the noise fades into the background beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET, when the Cuse will tip off with seventh-seeded Dayton in the Midwest Region.

Both schools squared off against each other in March Madness two years ago. Online sports book Bovada.lv actually ikes the Orange to take the rematch, though, installing them as 1-point favorites in St. Louis.

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Dayton (25-7) claimed the previous meeting, 55-53, as a decided underdog. Now, it enters as a perennial top-25 presence. Archie Miller’s group is 4-0 against opponents from the Power 5 conferences in 2015-16, with those triumphs coming over Iowa, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Arkansas.

On the flip side, Syracuse’s ninth-place finish among 15 ACC competitors belies the consistent NCAA success Boeheim has enjoyed at the helm. The Orange’s 57-37 mark in the tourney encompasses 37 appearances.

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Will the head coach’s patented 2-3 zone stymie the Flyers’ attack this time around? Dayton claimed a share of the Atlantic-10 regular-season title, but also experienced stretches of maddening inconsistency. We’ll side with Ohio’s upperclassmen-laden group, however, to move on to face either Michigan State or Middle Tennessee State in the semifinals.

FRIDAY NCAA FREE PICK: DAYTON +1

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