BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Western Michigan guard David Brown limped through the second half of the Broncos' 75-53 loss to Syracuse, and who could blame him? He had banged his right knee on a drive just before halftime, but at that point the Orange lead by 19, making it clear that this was likely his final collegiate game. And Brown's knee had already endured much worse. He had torn the ACL in his right knee in December 2011, leading to what he called "the worst feeling of his life," and then torn his meniscus the following summer -- all after redshirting during the '10-11 season due to a severely fractured ankle. His teammates have cited his comebacks as a source of inspiration. He was not going to sit down now.
Brown shot just 2-for-12 in the game, but he was far from the lone Western Michigan player to struggle. There had been some optimism among the Broncos before the game. Their experience with the 2-3 zone run by Eastern Michigan -- the Eagles are coached by former Orange assistant Rob Murphy -- would be helpful when facing Syracuse's vaunted defense, but that proved not to be the case. The length and athleticism of the Orange gave the Broncos fits early. They turned the ball over 11 times in the game's first 15 minutes. At that point, there was no coming back.
Much of the pre-tourney talk about Syracuse centered on the Orange's recent struggles, especially with forward Jerami Grant sidelined with back spasms and guard Trevor Cooney mired in a shooting slump. There were positive developments on both fronts for Syracuse against Western Michigan -- Grant scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds; Cooney made four of eight three-pointers to finish with a game-high 18 points -- but given how overwhelmed the Broncos appeared to be, what it all means going forward is open to question. On Saturday the Orange will face Dayton, an aggressive team riding the high of today's dramatic upset of Ohio State. The Flyers can run out capable scorers at just about every position. They like to run, and if they are able to get out and do that and control the tempo against Syracuse, they may not be done busting brackets yet. But Dayton has likely not faced anything like Orange coach Jim Boeheim's 2-3. If Grant is at full strength, if Cooney is knocking down shots, and if Tyler Ennis continues to be Tyler Ennis, Syracuse will be a test that no team will pass with ease.
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