There has been a renaissance in New York basketball over the last few months, with the Knicks making big moves to bring superstars back to the city, and the college teams have been holding up their end of the bargain as well. They may not be March Madness favorites to win it all, but Syracuse and St. John’s have what it takes to make some noise over the next three weeks.
The Orangemen earned a No.3 seed in the East region of the bracket, and they’ll face Indiana State in Cleveland in the first round on Friday. Syracuse’s biggest weapon is their 2-3 zone defense and when it works, the Orangemen are very tough to score on. Syracuse is 13th in the country in field-goal defense and second in blocked shots, and if you can’t shoot from the perimeter, you can kiss your chances of being Syracuse goodbye. They also have a good, experienced core of players in forward Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson, but the x-factor may be guard Scoop Jardine, who thrives on making big shots.
St. John’s brought some life back to the Garden with a number of big wins over top teams, riding it to a No.6 seed in the Southwest. Led by Dwight Hardy, arguably the best player in the Big East, the Red Storm have a bunch of seniors who are equipped to handle the pressure of the Tournament (the first time St. John’s have been dancing since 2002). But they have two problems right off the bat: one, they play in Denver, and their first-round opponent, Gonzaga, will have the edge in crowd support as they’re based in Washington. More importantly, the Red Storm lost forward D. J. Kennedy to a knee injury in the Big East tournament, which really hurt their chances in the post.
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