for this game

Gonzaga-Syracuse Preview

Mar 20, 2010 - 10:46 PM By JOHN KEKIS AP Sports Writer

Gonzaga (27-6) at Syracuse (29-4), 12:10 p.m. EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wishes he had a little more time before the second round of the NCAA tournament. So does Gonzaga's Mark Few - for more than one reason.

The Orange (29-4), the top seed in the West Regional, face the eighth-seeded Zags (27-6) in the early game on Sunday at HSBC Arena after playing until nearly midnight Friday in their 79-56 win over Vermont. The anxious Orange took the floor after the Zags had beaten Florida State 67-60.

"I don't know what the process is in this. I don't want to be upset about it," Boeheim said Saturday when asked if Syracuse should have been given deference - as in a longer break - as the top seed because of its late game. "It makes no sense."

After Gonzaga's difficult opening-round victory, Few would like some extra time to rest - and to prepare for the Orange's signature zone defense. It's a defense unlike any other and has a tendency to cause opponents problems the first time they see it.

"I think initially off the jump ball when they come down on offense that they get a little bit staggered out there," Orange guard Andy Rautins said.

That should give the Orange a leg up in the first meeting ever between the two teams.

"It's really difficult. Obviously, you're not going to go very hard today," said Few, who moved into first place all-time at Gonzaga with his 291st victory, surpassing the mark set by Hank Anderson from 1952-72. "We haven't seen anything like that all year. Obviously, there aren't many like it, especially with the size and athleticism that they bring.

"Then the other thing that's very impressive is they run the basketball and get out in transition. Being able to somehow slow that thing down is a tall task in 24 hours."

Syracuse again will play without 6-foot-9, 260-pound center Arinze Onuaku, who is recovering from a knee injury incurred 10 days ago against Georgetown in the Big East tournament. Onuaku hasn't practiced since he was hurt, and Boeheim said he would never play anyone who hadn't practiced.

"Losing 'AO' is a big hurt to our team. We know that," guard Scoop Jardine said.

"We have to play like he's on the floor. If he's not on the floor, he's still with us no matter what."

Onuaku's absence means 7-foot freshman DaShonte Riley likely will see playing time again. Riley, who played 125 minutes in 14 games during the season, got a taste of the postseason against the Catamounts and had two rebounds, two assists and a block in 12 minutes.

"I knocked some rust off," Riley said. "The main thing is just having some fun out there. It was good. I know what I'm capable of."

Riley and Rick Jackson, who will start again at center as the Orange stay with a small lineup that moves super reserve Kris Joseph into a starting role, will have to contend with Gonzaga 7-footer Robert Sacre.

"They have great players in the post anyways," said Sacre, who's averaging 10 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. "It's one of those things - they lose a big-time scoring threat down inside, but overall they're a big, physical team. They're in the Big East, so they will be physical. We know they're going to come out and bang with us. I know I need to do my role and be a threat in the inside."

This is Gonzaga's 12th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Zags are 4-4 against teams in this year's tournament field; the Orange are 12-4. In their impressive string of appearances, the Zags have made the round of 16 five times and the round of eight once, but they're 0-4 against top seeds.

To break that streak, Gonzaga will have to beat Syracuse in its own backyard. The Carrier Dome is only a 2 1/2-hour bus ride away and HSBC Arena likely will be decked in orange.

"We beat a very good Florida State team, a phenomenal defensive team, and now we're, gosh, stepping into probably one of the biggest challenges we've ever had since I've been the head coach," said Few, in his 11th year. "This is a phenomenal basketball team we're playing in their own backyard that has played great all year. It's a tall task, but it's a great opportunity, also."