By: Lauren Rosenberg
With the end of the regular season of NCAA Men’s Basketball coming to an end, the topic on all fan’s minds is who is going to make it into the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Fans already know the guarantees into the tournament including the University of Kansas Jayhawks and Gonzaga University Bulldogs to name a few but the most enticing parts of pre-March Madness is predicting the sleepers who can sneak into the tournament. Two of the best bets for sleepers are the Syracuse Orange and the New Mexico State University Aggies.
The Syracuse Orange aren’t new to the March Madness scene by any means. The Orange have made 38 total tournament appearances, 6 final four appearances, and 1 championship win from 2003 when the Orange defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 81-78 back in the Carmelo Anthony era. Most recently, the Orange defied many odds and made it to the Final Four in 2016 in Houston, Texas. As the Orange climbed up the bracket, they were seen as underdogs throughout the tournament, especially in the Elite Eight. Currently, the Orange hold a 17-12 record and are 7th in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Senior Guard Andrew White III. leads the team in points per game with a stellar average of 17.5 in 36.8 minutes per game as well as leading the team with 47 steals. Surrounding White is a team full of young, raw, potential including Sophomore Forward Tyler Lydon, who is averaging 13.5 points per game in 35.5 minutes per game, and Freshman Guard Tyus Battle, who is averaging 10.1 points per game in 29.6 minutes per game. The Orange have been known to overcome adversity with such young talent and shoot to the top. The downside to the Orange is that they are 2-7 on the road and have the huge potential to struggle in the tournament without their home fan base being there to cheer them on. On the plus side, the Orange have recorded three wins against ranked teams including #6 Florida State (82-72), #9 Virginia (66-62), and #10 Duke (78-75) but none of those wins were on the road. The Orange are very likely to sneak into the bracket but if they can’t figure out how to win outside of Carrier Dome, they won’t go very far into the tournament.
Like the Syracuse Orange, the New Mexico State University Aggies aren’t new to the March Madness scene either. The Aggies have made 22 tournament appearances and 1 Final Four appearance but unlike the Orange, the Aggies haven’t made it past the Final Four or even to it since 1970 when they lost to the UCLA Bruins 93-77. The Aggies were absent from the tournament in 2016 but the last time the Aggies made a tournament appearance wasn’t that far away. In fact, the Aggies made an appearance in 2015 but it didn’t last long. The Aggies were eliminated by the Kansas Jayhawks in the first round with a tender score of 75-56. Currently, the Aggies hold an impressive 22-5 record as well as ranking 2nd place in the Western Atlantic Conference. The Aggies are filled with veteran players, led by Senior Guard Ian Baker who averages 17.1 points per game in 32.6 minutes per game, who have the talent and versatility needed to lift the Aggies into the bracket. Although the Aggies hold a great record, the WAC isn’t a strong, competitive conference so compared to other teams with similar records, New Mexico State is on the lower end of the chain. Also unlike some of the other 22-5 teams, the Aggies haven’t competed against any ranked teams this season thereby haven’t been tested during the regular season to see how they can play against the nation’s best teams. The Aggies definitely have the potential to make it into the tournament but in order to stay in, they will need extra luck on their side in order to progress past the first round.