Player to Watch
Junior point guard Tyson Waterman transferred from Winthrop to Winston-Salem State after the 1996-97 season because he had been suspended for academic reasons. But when Gregg Marshall took over as coach last April, Waterman asked for a second chance. He led the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament berth by averaging 11.7 points and 4.4 assists and shooting 375% from beyond the arc.
Marshall, an animated 36-year-old coach, has used an aggressive defense to lift Winthrop's fortunes. The Eagles had the best field-goal-percentage defense (39.2%) in the Big South. Winthrop is also deep—10 players average at least 10 minutes a game—but Heson Groves, a 6'7" post player, is the only inside scorer for the Eagles, who shot just 44% from the floor and relied heavily on the long-range bombing of Waterman, Roger Toxey and Robbie Waldrop.
Coach Gregg Marshall
Team scoring 69.8 (FG%: 43.8) (3-pointers: 190-542, 35.1%)
Opponent scoring 64.1 (FG%: 42.8)
Rebound margin +2.5
Team FT% 66.0
Whom not to foul
Tyson Waterman (83%), Roger Toxey (78%)
Whom to foul
Jacques Vandescure (57%), Heson Groves (62%)
Marshall said if the moon is in the right place, the Eagles have a chance. We see a bad moon risin' against Auburn.
Player to Watch
It's no coincidence that the Orange runs hot and cold, because junior point guard Jason Hart switches on and off from one possession to the next. The three-year starter makes plenty of good plays—he averaged 13.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.0 steals per game—but he can just as easily dribble into a trap or attempt the impossible pass (3.2 turnovers). As he goes, so goes Syracuse.
Thanks to improved quickness, the Orange, which rode a 2-3 zone to the 1996 Final Four, is playing more man-to-man than it has in nearly a decade. Center Etan Thomas (4.0 blocks per game) alters shots in the paint. Any team with the slightest weakness inside will make Syracuse look Final Four-worthy, but the Orangemen are vulnerable to teams with bangers. They also have no one who can reliably knock down the outside shot, and they haven't won more than two in a row since Jan. 5.