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After a closely played first half between Syracuse and Middle Tennessee, the Orange turned a four-point lead into a 20-point one across a dominant seven minute stretch in the second half. The Orange moved on to the Sweet 16, winning 76–50.
Why it matters
The Orange are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they went to the Final Four in 2013. They were one of the last teams in the field, and it was a bit surprising to see them get in and avoid the First Four. All that chatter about them being undeserving is in the rear-view mirror, though they certainly owe the Blue Raiders a note of thanks for taking down Michigan State. Michael Gbinije bounced back from a terrible performance against Dayton, scoring 23 points on 10-for-14 from the floor. If the Orange are going to keep getting the better of their pre-tournament doubters, they’ll need the Gbinije who showed up against Middle Tennessee State, not the one who foundered in their 19-point win against Dayton in the first round.
Syracuse will meet fellow double-digit seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. That will pit the Orange’s vaunted 2–3 zone against one of the best shooting teams in the country. The winner of that matchup within the matchup will likely advance to the Elite Eight.