Favorite Syracuse looks to avoid letdown in SLC
From » Syracuse, N.Y.
Record » 30-4, 15-3 Big East Conference
History » The Orange are ranked fifth in the NCAA for all-time wins, but their only championship came in 2003 behind Carmelo Anthony.
Coach » Jim Boeheim, 829-292 (all at Syracuse)
Wes Johnson » Johnson leads the Orange with 16.5 points per game and is one of four finalists for the Naismith Award. A talented junior swingman who transferred from Iowa State before last season, Johnson netted 31 points against Gonzaga last week in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. When Johnson leads, Syracuse follows -- usually to a win.
Andy Rautins » A sharpshooting guard, Rautins also heads the Syracuse defense. The senior is at the top of the Orange's smothering zone defense. He will need to be active against Butler to keep the Bulldogs from shooting over Syracuse.
Rick Jackson » Jackson has started every game this season, but has taken on a new role in the NCAA Tournament: center. With Arinze Onuaku out for at least Thursday's game with an injured quad, Jackson becomes that much more valuable. The lineup shift, however, leaves Syracuse vulnerable at power forward, Boeheim said.
Key wins » Feb. 27 -- Syracuse 95, Villanova 77: Cinched share of Big East title and elevated the Orange to a brief stint as No. 1 in the country
» Sunday -- Syracuse 87, Gonzaga 65: The Orange fell behind early, but responded to earn their 19th all-time Sweet 16 bid.
Season-defining moment » The Orange knocked off No. 13 California by 22 points on Nov. 19 and the next night beat No. 6 North Carolina by 16 to win the 2K Sports Classic in New York City. For the Orange, unranked in preseason rankings, the back-to-back victories were the first glimpse at how good they would turn out to be.
Outlook » As the No. 1 seed, Syracuse comes into the West Regional as the de facto favorite. To get to their first Final Four since 2003, however, the Orange must overcome not only fifth-seeded Butler and either Kansas State or Xavier, but also whatever was responsible for six of the seven other Big East teams already losing in the tournament.
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