by Christian Fazzini
This is the first time in NCAA tournament history that two No. 4 seeded teams will face each other. Syracuse and Michigan square off in Atlanta as they both try to advance to the national championship game where they will face the winner of Louisville and Wichita State. Will the 2-3 zone of Syracuse be too much for Michigan to handle? Or will Michigan light it up from beyond the arc?
They need to get Michael Carter-Williams going early. Carter-Williams is arguably the best point guard in the country, which will make for a great match up against Michigan’s stud point guard, and recently named Player of the Year, Trey Burke. With a great mixture of size and speed, he can easily penetrate defenses and get the offense going by kicking the ball out to Brandon Triche, James Southerland and C.J. Fair. His length and quickness make him a great defender atop of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, allowing him to steal the ball and get Syracuse in a transition game where they thrive.
On the other hand, Syracuse isn’t exactly a powerhouse when it comes to halfcourt offense. Southerland, Triche, and Fair all need to hit their shots. We have seen Syracuse struggle in the past with this. In the regular season and tournament, Syracuse has failed to score over 60 points in nine games, five of those games resulted in a loss. Swinging the ball, come off their pick and rolls, and Carter-Williams being able to penetrate the Michigan defense will allow Syracuse have offensive success in the half court, and ultimately result in a win.
Three words; three-point shooting. Michigan matches up great with a zone because they can hit shots, especially the three ball. In their four tournament wins, Syracuse has held opponents to 28% for the field and 14% behind the arc. On the other hand, in all four of Michigan’s wins, they have shot 49% from the field, and 40% from behind the arc. So what does that tell you? If Michigan shoots the ball well unlike all the other teams Syracuse faced thus far, they could pull out a victory. But can they handle that long, quick zone?
Michigan also has to control the glass. Offensive rebounds will be key against the zone and allow for more scoring opportunities. Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary need to contain Keita and the rest of the Syracuse big men from pulling down boards. Michigan also has to stay out of foul trouble; due to the fact they are not really deep. In the tournament, Michigan starters have played 704 minutes, compared to the 121 minutes played by the bench.
This should be a barnburner. Both teams match up very well with one another. You have probably the two best point guards in the nation going head to head, and a national title birth on the line and a great defense matched up with a great offense; what more do you want? Look for Trey Burke to control this game for Michigan as he is not afraid to take the open shot, and often hits it. Same for Syracuse, look for MCW to put Syracuse on his back using his quickness, size and speed to disrupt the Michigan defense. With all that said, I think Syracuse pulls this one out.
Bottom line, defense wins. Syracuse 70, Michigan 68.