0 Comments Published on 3.27.2009 by Brian Harrison
This is the game that everyone is billing as “America’s Hottest Team v. America’s Best Player”. I cannot disagree. Syracuse seems to be one of those teams America has sort of become enamored with after that epic win over UConn in the Big East Tournament. The love continued as many people have Syracuse advancing to the Elite 8 in their brackets, and some even have them defeating UNC to advance to the Final Four. Either way, this will be a very good game to watch. Syracuse meets Oklahoma for the first time since they defeated them pretty handily in the 2003 Elite 8 to advance to the Final Four. There is a slight revenge factor working here. Oklahoma will be a one-two punch Syracuse needs to defend well against. Blake Griffin is easily the best player in the country right now, and will surely garner the #1 overall selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. He averages 22.5ppg and 14.4rpg. Willy Warren, their stellar freshman, is an excellent guard that shoots 14.7ppg and hits 38% from behind the arc. The rest of the team averages under 10ppg, therefore stopping these two players is a must. This will be a match up of the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 Zone defense and the offense of Oklahoma. Syracuse will most likely only let Griffin have highly contested, low percentage shots if the defense is working well. That will leave it to the shooters outside for Oklahoma to make shots and stretch the zone to allow Griffin to go off. However, Syracuse has consistently faced good big men all season long in the Big East and is battle tested. Luke Harangody managed to make 24 points on Syracuse, but his team lost because Syracuse consistently scored. Syracuse did not let Hasheem Thabeet go nuts in scoring in either of their contests this season. Additionally, I do not think anyone can argue that Syracuse has much better guard play than Oklahoma. Flynn, Devendorf, and Rautins were all excellent in the Arizona State contest, so that would lead me to believe that today should not be any different. In a close game, you have to like more complete guard play over a great big man in the NCAA Tournament, especially if Flynn, Devendorf, or Harris go at Griffin and the Oklahoma frontcourt and earn fouls. Additionally, Syracuse will need to step up their rebounding efforts, as zone defenses are not conducive to rebounds as it is, let along facing Griffin inside boxing out. If Syracuse manages to limit Griffin to a reasonable score, there is no reason to think Syracuse will not win, unless shooting is way under par. I like Syracuse in this game, and have since I filled out my first bracket before the tournament. This one trick pony should be pulling into the station, where Griffin can go collect his millions in the NBA. Oklahoma could not handle the zone then, and I doubt they will handle it better tonight. ‘Cuse survives and advances by nine.