Welcome to Playboy.com’s 2014 Bracket Challenge

The Syracuse Orange match up well against their new ACC foes, but can this NCAA college basketball giant beat out the best in the 2014 March Madness bracket

Team Preview: 2014 Syracuse Orange

By: Tobin Howes

2012-13 Record: 30-10, 11-7 in the Big East

Coach: Jim Boeheim

Syracuse is a lot of things: birthplace of the Iroquois, outlet mall haven for Canadians and, most importantly, a mecca of college basketball. There was a passion for basketball in this Northern New York enclave before their national title in 2003, but a championship won by a hometown hero put Orange fans through the stratosphere. The Carrier Dome is now one of the toughest places to play in the country. It may lack the charm of a Cameron Indoor Stadium or Rupp Arena, but it makes up for it in sheer enormity. The dome regularly hosts over 30,000 fans, with a record of 35,000 last year against Georgetown. Unfortunately for the Orangemen, you don’t get to play every game at home, especially during March.

Strongside: This team is harder to hate than Kate Upton wearing a bikini frolicking in an alpine meadow with a litter of newborn golden retrievers. They are everything you want in a college basketball team: good size, talented guards and balanced scoring—four players averaging more than 12 points a game. They have beaten every team put in front of them thus far this season, although their only true challenge was the #8 Villanova Wildcats. They came up with their biggest win against their biggest opponent, though, rallying from 18 down to win by 14.

A time-tested tactic employed by Jim Boeheim is the zone defense. It has looked great thus far and is extremely difficult to score against. If you depend on a big man to score your points down low, it is difficult to penetrate. If you depend on perimeter shooting, you better have extremely quick ball movement. Basically, if you are an opponent of Syracuse you better hope your point guard is a playmaker. Otherwise it is going to be a long game.

Frankly put, there is nothing to dislike about an undefeated team who went to the Final Four last year.

Weakside: Finding a weakness on this team would just be nitpicking. Their rebounding isn’t outstanding but not a massive detriment. They could use a dominant big man, but really, who couldn’t? There is nothing that stands out as a weakness in this team’s performance; they make the best of what they have.

Off the court, I have a small issue with their scheduling. Other than their matchups against their fellow ACC alpha dogs (UNC/Duke), there is not much meat on the bone.

All Told: Barring any major injuries, this team should be headed to the Final Four for the second consecutive season. Keep an eye on their two games in February against Duke as a true barometer. If they win both, I predict the national title will be returning to Syracuse at the beginning of April.

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