For the second straight year, the Syracuse men’s basketball team enters the NCAA Tournament under a cloud of controversy.
In 2012, starting center Fab Melo was suspended for the tourney due to academic issues. This year, the entire basketball program is under suspicion of wrongdoing.
CBS Sports reported on Wednesday that Syracuse basketball has been under NCAA investigation for a period of “years.” Specific allegations weren’t specified, but an unidentified source told CBS the probe involves several possible NCAA violations.
“Throw a dart at the [NCAA] Manual [and you would hit a violation by Syracuse]," said the source.
According to long-time head coach Jim Boeheim, the report won’t be a distraction for the team. He’s stated that the team’s only concern is their first game in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
On Thursday, Syracuse will close out Day 1 action in the first round in the field of 64. The No.4 seed in the East region, SU will take on No.13 Montana in San Jose at 9:57 p.m. ET. The contest will air on truTV, but viewers can watch a free live stream online at ncaa.com.
The winner of the contest will go on to face the victor of UNLV vs. California. The No.5 and No.12 seed will compete at 7:25 p.m. ET.
The Orange are decided favorites, with the betting line giving the Grizzlies 13 points at most Las Vegas casinos. Syracuse is familiar with first-round upsets, however. In both 2005 and 2006, the club was upset by a double-digit seed in their first game of March Madness.
After a rough finish to the regular season, Syracuse went on a roll in the Big East Tournament. They defeated Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, before losing to Louisville in the title game.
Montana dominated the Big Sky, going 19-1 in the conference and winning the postseason tournament. They might not be much of an opponent for Syracuse, but they sport the 13th best three-point shooting team in the country. They could cause some problems for the Orange’s 2-3 zone.
Syracuse doesn’t have much of an inside presence, but its backcourt will likely be too much for Montana to handle. Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams form one of the most talented guard combinations in the country. They should be able to find C.J. Fair and James Southerland for open looks.
Prediction: Syracuse 70, Montana 56