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Preview: California vs. Syracuse

Preview: California vs. Syracuse

Twelfth-seeded California scored an upset over Nevada-Las Vegas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. The Golden Bears' reward for that is a date Saturday in San Jose, Calif., with No. 4 seed Syracuse, which put on one of the most impressive displays of the entire second round in a demolition of Montana. The Orange nearly set a school record with their 81-34 victory and will be looking to book a trip to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth time in five years.

California has the benefit of being within 50 miles of its campus, and a strong support from the crowd was evident in the 64-61 victory over the Rebels. Syracuse had little trouble with the environment against the Grizzlies, but will have to contend with a more partisan crowd when it faces the Golden Bears. The Orange are on a roll after reaching the finals of the Big East tournament and leaned on senior guard Brandon Triche for 20 points Thursday.

TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS

ABOUT CALIFORNIA (21-11): The Golden Bears benefited from something that Syracuse has employed for years in the win over UNLV - a zone defense. California's zone led to an 11:23 stretch in which the Rebels failed to score and the Golden Bears surged out to a nine-point lead before holding on in the final minutes. California was one of the last at-large teams to make it into the NCAA Tournament and has not advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 1997. Coach Mike Montgomery's team has a pair of guards in Justin Cobb and Allen Crabbe that average a combined 34.1 points and will try to push the tempo. Crabbe, who was voted Pac-12 Player of the Year, led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds on Thursday.

ABOUT SYRACUSE (27-9): The Orange's zone confounded Montana into 20.4 percent shooting in a performance that nearly set Syracuse school records for dominance. The 47-point margin of victory was two off the team's NCAA Tournament record of 49 in a first round victory over Brown in 1986, and it set an NCAA Tournament record for the biggest win by a team seeded third or lower. Triche and Michael Carter-Williams form a backcourt strong enough to challenge Cobb and Crabbe, and the Orange have plenty of size on the interior as well. Syracuse seems to be recovered from a rough stretch at the end of the regular season that saw it drop four of five - all to ranked teams.

TIP-INS

1. The Golden Bears have held five of their last seven opponents to less than 40 percent from the field.

2. Syracuse has never faced California in the NCAA Tournament and has not faced a Pac-12 team since beating Arizona State in the second round in 2009.

3. Orange F C.J. Fair is 9-of-12 from 3-point range in his last five games.

PREDICTION: Syracuse 72, California 66