Preview: Montana vs. Syracuse
Syracuse, which received an at-large bid and the No. 4 seed in the East Region, will play No. 13 seed Montana on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. The Orange, who are 56-35 in 35 years at the Big Dance, were a No. 1 seed but lost to No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Elite Eight last season. Syracuse is coming off a 78-61 loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament championship game. The Grizzlies earned an automatic bid as the Big Sky tournament champion.
Montana, which is making its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 10th overall, was a popular upset pick in last season's Big Dance but lost 74-49 to Wisconsin. The Grizzlies have a six-game win streak, including a 67-64 victory over Weber State in the Big Sky tournament championship game. Montana and Syracuse have never met and did not play any common opponents this season.
TV: 9:57 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT MONTANA (25-6): The Grizzlies finished first in the Big Sky during the regular season with a 19-1 record. Montana has won the Big Sky tournament three of the last four seasons and six times in the past 12 seasons. The Grizzlies are 2-10 in the NCAA Tournament, beating Utah State in 1975 and defeating Nevada in 2006. Junior swingman Kareem Jamar, who averages 14.5 points and six rebounds, was the Big Sky tournament MVP for a second straight season.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (26-9): Syracuse, which finished fifth in the Big East with an 11-7 record, struggled in four of its final five games during the regular season, losing twice to Georgetown and falling to Marquette and Louisville. In Syracuse's second loss to Georgetown, a 61-39 throttling on March 9, the Orange scored their fewest points in coach Jim Boeheim's tenure. Syracuse recovered during the Big East tournament and beat Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, respectively, to reach the title game. Junior forward C.J. Fair leads Syracuse in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.1).
Syracuse averages 71.3 points while Montana averages 71.1 points.
The Orange are making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance under Boeheim.
The Syracuse-Montana winner face either No. 5 seed UNLV (25-9) or No. 12 seed California (20-11) on Saturday.
PREDICTION: Syracuse 70, Montana 66