|Syracuse looks to take down No. 3 seed Michigan St.|
Longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim knows how gut-wrenching the NCAA Tournament can be to everyone but the eventual national champion.
Boeheim feels badly for Virginia coach Tony Bennett and his team after the Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed in tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed.
"This tournament just breaks your heart," Boeheim said. "The better you are, the more it breaks your heart. It's unfortunate but everything revolves around what you do in this tournament if you're good. If you're not so good, it's good just to get in it."
Syracuse was fortunate to receive one of the last at-large bids and had to work its way through the First Four round. The Orange, seeded 11th in the Midwest Region, are in a position to provide heartbreak to one of the top seeds.
They got into the Round of 64 by edging Arizona State on Wednesday, then topped No. 6 seed TCU 57-52 on Friday night. The Orange will face No. 3 seed Michigan State, which defeated No. 14 Bucknell 82-78 in the second round on Sunday afternoon at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena.
As usual, Syracuse (22-13) is living off its vaunted zone defense. It held the Horned Frogs to 39.6 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers to grind out the victory. That's the formula it will try to use against the athletically gifted Spartans (30-4).
"We're going to play the way we play," Boeheim said. "We're not running up and down."
The Orange had plenty of trouble scoring Friday as their main three offensive threats -- Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard -- shot a combined 11 for 40 from the field. They were bailed out by freshman forward Marek Dolezaj, who scored a game-high 17 points.
"He's a good defender and he's capable of scoring in the right situations," Boeheim said of Dolezaj. "Everybody we play is worried about the other three guys. He gets into some really good situations. He gets the ball, open, at 10 feet a lot. He's gradually been able to figure that out."
Michigan State relied on its best option to shake off the pesky Bison. Sophomore forward Miles Bridges took 22 shots and poured in 29 points.
"I did get on Miles at halftime," coach Tom Izzo said. "But boy, we started running some stuff for him and he started answering the bell, one right after another."
The Spartans didn't play for nearly two weeks prior to their tournament opener. They trailed just once and built a commanding lead in the late going. Bucknell hit a flurry of 3-pointers in the final two minutes but ran out of time.
"Considering the layoff, we were pretty sharp for maybe 30 minutes of the game," Izzo said. "But when we weren't sharp, it was really disappointing. It wasn't one mistake, it was like three or four. That's got to change if we're going to be moving on."
In a game that got chippy at times, particularly in the second half, the Spartans showed their longtime coach some toughness.
"We're still growing, we're still trying to get better but we really took a big step because it was a physical game," he said.
The traditional powers haven't met in the tournament since 2000. The Spartans won in the regional semifinals 75-58 and went on to win the national championship.