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Orange Opens NCAA Tournament Play on Thursday

Syracuse makes its 2012 NCAA Tournament debut on Thursday, March 15 when it takes on UNC Asheville at 3:10 p.m. at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH – Syracuse makes its 2012 NCAA Tournament debut on Thursday, March 15 when it takes on UNC Asheville at 3:10 p.m. at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Orange earned a No. 1 seed for the second time in three years after finishing the regular-season with a 31-2 record. The Bulldogs, the Big South Conference Tournament champions, are 24-9 this season. The game will be broadcast on truTV.

ORANGE IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Syracuse is making its 35th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 29th under Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim. The Orange is 53-34 (.609) all-time in NCAA Tournament play and has advanced to four Final Fours (1975, 1987, 1996, 2003). SU finished as the national runner-up in 1987 and 1996 and won the national championship in 2003.

ALUMNI WATCH PARTY IN PITTSBURGH
Syracuse alumni are invited to a watch party in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The gathering will take place at Damon's in the US Steel Tower at 600 Grant Street. There is no admission charge and food and drink will be available pay as you go.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ORANGE
Syracuse has tied the school record for wins this season with 31. The Orange set the mark for its best start in program history, winning its first 20 games of the campaign.

Senior Kris Joseph leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. Joseph was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection and is a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award. Sophomore Dion Waiters earned the BIG EAST Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 12.6 points per game. He also leads the team in steals with 62.

The Orange’s backcourt features senior Scoop Jardine and junior Brandon Triche. Jardine was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team this season. He leads the squad with 156 assists. Triche, who has started every game in his career, is averaging 9.3 points per contest and ranks second on the team with 39 three-pointers.

Sophomore C.J. Fair has been a key contributor off the bench for the Orange this season. He ranks second on the team in minutes played (26.6 per game) and rebounding (5.5 rpg). In addition, Fair is averaging 8.6 points per game.

The Orange will be without its leading rebounder Fab Melo, who will miss the NCAA Tournament because of an eligibility issue.

SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
UNC Asheville is the 2011-12 Big South regular-season and tournament champion.  The Bulldogs are making their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Guard Matt Dickey (16.5 ppg) and Big South Tournament MVP J.P. Primm (15.3 ppg) lead five Bulldog scorers in double figures. Primm leads the squad with 139 assists and 63 steals. Forward Jeremy Atkinson is the team’s top rebounder at 6.6 boards per game.

Eddie Biedenbach is in his 16th year at the helm of the UNC Asheville program. He is the longest-tenured coach in Big South Conference history and the league’s all-time winningest coach in both conference and overall games.

THE SERIES
Thursday’s game will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools. Syracuse has won all three previous contests. Most recently, the Orange defeated the Bulldogs, 81-63 in the Carrier Dome during the 2003-04 season.

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