Let’s all take a moment to get over the fact that our brackets are complete garbage. For some people that had Syracuse in the Final Four (me!), congratulations! At least half the people involved in brackets didn’t have the Syracuse Orange going this far. Almost a month ago, the Orange barely looked worthy of being in the tournament, losing seven of their last 12 games. Three weeks later the Syracuse team was clipping the nets after beating Marquette, and now they’re in the Final Four—they haven’t gone this far since Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a national championship back in ’03. Now, Syracuse is just one game away from reaching the national championship game.
This may very well may be Syracuse’s coach, Boeheim, best and last chance to win another national title. Can he lead the Orange to a title?
With Syracuse’s smothering defense, Boeheim’s team has a good shot. This defense is playing out of its mind.
Syracuse’s defense plays hard, aggressive, complete zone defense. A sea of orange coming at you; you look up and all you see is hands, you look down and all you see is hands, you look side to side and, well, you get the picture. The 2-3 zone has been so dominant that Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams said “it’s going to take a team a perfect game,” to beat it. And he’s right.
So far, in the tournament, teams haven’t been able to solve Syracuse’s zone. The 2-3 zone has swallowed up teams, thus far. The zone will dominate you. The zone will break your will. It forced top-seeded Indiana, one of the tournament’s more potent offenses, to shoot 33 percent from the field and turn the ball over 19 times. It made No. 3 seed Marquette turn the ball over 14 times and shoot 22 percent from the field.
The combination of length and athleticism is what makes the zone so ferocious—and because of Triche, Fair, Southerland and Carter-Williams at the top of the zone, it becomes nightmarish. Syracuse can clog up the middle with its length, and the way to beat the zone is by making outside shots; the thing is, though, the Orange rank second nationally in three-point defense.
Saturday night will be a great game. It should be a classic game. It will be a game of opposites where Michigan, an up-tempo team averaging 79 points per game, will go against Syracuse’s methodical style and defense that is allowing less than 46 points per game in this tournament.
One thing to keep in mind is that Michigan has the best player in the country in Trey Burke. Can the zone slow him down?
One thing’s for sure: Syracuse’s zone will be tested…again. Coach Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange are one win away from the title game. They haven’t been there in a decade, but with their defense, they’re poised to make it.
In the way of that, though, are the Michigan Wolverines.