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Updated: Friday, March 21, 2003 8:56 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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No. 14 Manhattan (23-6) vs No. 3 Syracuse (24-5)
MANHATTAN JASPERS
Manhattan Jaspers
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SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN
Syracuse Orangemen
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BOSTON (Ticker) -- Before it can think of playing closer to home, third-seeded Syracuse must first get by No. 14 Manhattan on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the East Region.

Despite losing in the semifinals of the Big East Conference tournament, the Orangemen (24-5) were placed in the East region and could enjoy a big advantage should they win their first two games.

The regionals will played in Albany, New York, which is just over two hours away from the Orangemen's homecourt.

The Orangemen's quest to play closer to home could get off to a dangerous start against Manhattan (23-6), which won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and owns wins over Big East teams St. John's and Seton Hall this season.

Syracuse has a star player that could carry it deep in the tournament in freshman small forward Carmelo Anthony, who averages 22.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest.

Anthony has some help in the form of athletic sophomore forward Hakim Warrick, who averages 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Freshman Gerry McNamara (13.3 ppg) and Kueth Duany (11.8 ppg) also score in double figures for the Orangemen.

Duany and reserve forward Jeremy McNeil are the only members of the Orangemen with tournament experience. Syracuse missed the tournament last season.

Like the Orangemen, the Jaspers also have a star player to rely on in MAAC Player of the Year Luis Flores, who averages 24.8 points. The 6-1 junior guard has played against Syracuse in the past after transferring from Rutgers.

Junior forward Dave Holmes (12.7 ppg) and senior forward Jared Johnson (12.2 ppg) also average in double figures for the Jaspers.

Manhattan is no strangers to upsets in the NCAA Tournament. In their last tournament appearance as a No. 13 seed in 1995, the Jaspers posted a stunning 77-67 victory over fourth-seeded Oklahoma in the first round of the Southeast Region.

Jaspers coach Bobby Gonzalez is considered one of the hottest young coaches in the country and is making his NCAA Tournament debut.

Syracuse cruised to a 78-58 victory over Manhattan in the season opener last year in the Preseason NIT. The Orangemen have won the last eight meetings.

The winner face Oklahoma State or Pennsylvania in the second round on Sunday.


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