Facebook Twitter Google+ SAN JOSE, Calif. — Brandon Triche and James Southerland laughed, smiled and joked atop the podium. They were jovial, enjoying the moment and an accurate barometer of a team whose confidence is quite possibly the highest it’s been all season.Syracuse limped into the Big East tournament last week, losing four of its last five games in the regular season and slipping all the way to No. 19 in the rankings. But just as suddenly as it lost control, the team was reborn in the form of a three-game winning streak during which its offense resurfaced and a pair of struggling shooters came to life.Now, after a march to the Big East tournament title game, the Orange enters the NCAA Tournament as a confident team hoping to make a deep run through the East Regional. That process begins Thursday, when fourth-seeded Syracuse faces No. 13-seed Montana at 9:57 p.m. And the biggest question — the one that has plagued this bunch all season — is which team will show up.“We’re used to playing well,” Triche said. “We’re used to playing bad, too. So I think we could play either way. But we used the Big East to our benefit, and that’s to play well and get our offense going.”The three-and-a-half-game resurgence in New York — Syracuse collapsed in the second half of the final against Louisville — saw Triche break out of a slump that lasted the better part of six weeks and Southerland catch fire in the greatest shooting stretch in Big East tournament history. It added new dimensions to an offense that had grown stagnant. It bred new confidence after levels of belief started to recede.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt sent the Orange cruising into San Jose seemingly peaking at the right time.“Our offense was pretty much terrible for the whole month of February,” Triche said. “But we got it going at the right time. That’s all we needed to do, just go in the Big East, knock off a few games and get back playing well.”Even Kareem Jamar, Montana’s leading scorer among its active players, said the second half against Louisville “didn’t sum up what type of team” Syracuse is. And he expects the Orange to come out with a bit of a chip on its shoulder, following several college basketball experts putting SU on upset alert.Will Cherry is billing this game as Montana against the world. He said very few people are giving his team a chance against the fourth-seeded Orange, based on what he’s heard, but a win over such a prestigious program is something Montana would always remember.“It’s definitely a tremendous honor (to play against them),” Cherry said. “I had one other tremendous honor of going up against UCLA, another powerhouse that’s predicated on basketball and has a lot of history. Jim Boeheim is a terrific coach. He has a lot of wins under his belt and he knows what he’s doing.”What Boeheim will be doing on Thursday is attempting to stifle a Montana team that is full of shooters. Triche compared the Grizzlies to Seton Hall, a team Syracuse beat twice this year, because of its multitude of players capable of connecting from behind the 3-point line.The Orange defeated Seton Hall in the Big East tournament last week, but the Pirates shot 10-of-20 from beyond the arc. Closing out on Montana’s shooters, who are led by Jamar, Jordan Gregory and Mike Weisner, will be a big focus of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.“I just think they’re a really good, well-balanced basketball team,” Boeheim said. “I think they move the ball really well, offensively. They shoot it from the perimeter extremely well. I think that, offensively, they’re a really good basketball team.”When asked what, if anything, he could do or say to motivate his team to perform with the same intensity it displayed in New York City last week, Boeheim said there’s nothing specific to ensure a similar performance. After playing more than 30 games this season — some way up and others horrifyingly down — Syracuse is what it is, Boeheim said.And so in the NCAA Tournament, where one loss ends your season, that is both a delightful and deadly realization. For the moment, Syracuse is up, but who knows how, if or when it will fall.“We did a great job of finding our chemistry and beating some great teams (in New York),” Southerland said. “I feel like that’s the only motivation we need going into this tournament.” Comments Related Stories Gallery: Syracuse practices in San Jose a day before taking on Montana in the NCAA TournamentSyracuse not getting distracted in wake of reports of NCAA investigationSyracuse and Montana have never played in basketball, but 98 years ago they fought to a tie in footballQ&A with Montana beat writer Bob Meseroll of the MissoulianBearing down: Despite injuries to key players, Montana carries momentum from stellar regular season into NCAA Tournament Published on March 21, 2013 at 2:13 am Contact Michael: email@example.com | @Michael_Cohen13 read more
Scrum half Conor Murray says there’s a buzz in the camp.The tournament kicks off this evening as England take on Fiji in the opening match of Pool A. Kick off at Twickenham is at 8.