When lower-seeded teams pull upsets in the NCAA Tournament, it’s assumed that the team that plays the lower seed in the next round catches a break by playing a weaker team. But that’s not always the case. Case in point: the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers will be a tougher matchup for the No. 3 seed Syracuse Orange than Ohio State would have been in the second round of the South Region on Saturday.
First off, the Dayton and Ohio State game was one of the most evenly matched games of the first round, and Dayton proved throughout the course of the game that they were a slightly better team. Syracuse isn’t getting the weaker opponent just because they’re playing a lower seed. The Flyers deserve to be in the round of 32 and are a better team than Ohio State.
More importantly, the Flyers are a much tougher matchup for the Orange. Ohio State was one of the least impressive teams in a powerful Big 10 this season, and they were one of the most offensively inept teams to make into the field of 64. The Syracuse 2-3 zone would have eaten the Buckeyes alive and likely would have held Ohio State under 50 points on their way to a third consecutive Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, Dayton is a much tougher matchup for the Syracuse zone. They have four players averaging double figures with no single player scoring more than 12 points per game, meaning they are balanced on offense and don’t have one or two standout players that the Orange defense can focus on stopping. The Flyers are also better at getting up and down the court, giving them a chance to beat the Syracuse zone down the court before it can set up. While this is a pace the Orange would be comfortable with playing, it’s a strategy that few teams have used against them this year.
Dayton also has several capable outside shooters. Ohio State, on the other hand, is a less impressive outside shooting team the likes of which Syracuse would have preferred to play. Four of the Flyers’ top five scorers shoot 39 percent or better from the perimeter, which could potentially cause a problem for Syracuse if they’re not at the top of their game defensively.
Of course, Syracuse is a quality defensive team with the size and length to bother outside shooters. Dayton also has a limited amount of time to prepare to face one of the top zone teams in college basketball, which would give the Orange an advantage. However, the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups, and Dayton is certainly a tougher matchup for Syracuse than Ohio State would have been. That’s why you can throw out the seeds and just focus on the teams on the floor when the Flyers and the Orange meet on Saturday.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.