|This looks beautiful, especially at the Verizon Center!|
Sorry, guys. I know we're a full week after the Indiana game, and five says since the Marquette game. Travelling back from Washington, Easter festivities, catching up from last week, and preparing to be gone for the Final Four have left little time to recap the games. But, since this has to be documented, and since I was there at the Verizon Center for the crazy shenanigans, I owe it to the loyal readers of this blog to share my thoughts. So, enjoy:
All of the pregame hype was all about Keith Smart and 1987. But that was 26 years ago, not now. Now, Syracuse had to deal with one of the best offensive teams in college basketball this season. That's what I had on my mind as I entered by seat in section 419 in the Verizon Center. That Hoosier offense never really showed up. Probably because the Syracuse defense did. The vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone has received a lot of attention this tournament (much as it did in 2003), but it was especially so after the Indiana game. The Orange was constantly forcing turnovers, running the floor, and scoring. It was the perfect recipe that led to a Syracuse win over Indiana, 61-50.
- Michael. Carter. -Williams. He picked a pretty big stage to have the game of his life. 24 points on 9-19 shooting, 3-6 from three, five rebounds, four steals.
- Obviously the big stat there was 24 points. He only had one assist. So, as the point guard, he was seeing something that he liked, something that he had to exploit. That, of course, was the great height advantage he and Brandon Triche had on the Hoosier guards. With the Syracuse forwards spreading out the Indiana defense, lanes opened up for MCW & Triche to drive the lane or even shoot over the guards.
- Brandon had a great game as well, with 14 points on 6-12 shooting, with four rebounds. He did have six turnovers, but when your backcourt gives you 38 points, you tend to forgive some things.
- CJ Fair was CJ Fair. Again. I literally should just copy and paste my comments about CJ from game to game, make the occasional stat change as necessary. This one was eleven points on 4-10 shooting, nine rebounds, two blocks, and two steals.
- MCW, Triche, and Fair all played 38 minutes.
- Rakeem Christmas didn't contribute much in his nine minutes, though his height and length had Indiana scratching their heads in the middle of the zone.
- The rest of those center minutes went to Baye Moussa Keita, who went 3-4 from the line, grabbed three rebounds, blocked two shots and had two steals.
- Syracuse had 13 points off turnovers, and 30 points in the paint.
- Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, but once the Orange took the lead 4-3 with a fastbreak Brandon Triche dunk at 16:18 in the first half, they never looked back and never relinquished the lead. Impressive.
As we got to see Marquette overpower Miami in the game prior to ours, we knew we'd be seeing the Golden Eagles again. And the talked turned to "Well, they've seen the Syracuse zone and beat it a month ago."
After beating the #1 seed Indiana, Marquette didn't scare me quite so much. Granted, Marquette had beat Syracuse on February 25, but that was in the midst of the bad stretch for the Orange. And, Marquette had just done a number of Miami. But I entered this game thinking that Syracuse now had some serious confidence, and all they had to do is go out there, shoot well, and hope their defense could shut down the Marquette shooters. That's basically what Syracuse was able to do. Syracuse dominated a very good Golden Eagles team and made them look like Syracuse looked at the Verizon Center only three weeks earlier. Syracuse beats Marquette 55-39 to win the East Regional and advance to the Final Four in Atlanta.
- James Southerland carried the torch for the Orange offense, scoring 16 points on 6-13 shooting, 3-9 from three. He also contributed three rebounds and a block.
- CJ Fair? See above. Otherwise, it was 13 points on 5-11 shooting, six rebounds, two blocks, and three steals.
- Michael Carter-Williams had another solid game with 12 points (4-9 and 1-1 from three), eight rebounds, six assists, and five steals. Certainly a much more balanced approach than what he gave on Thursday, but both games were key for him.
- The emerging outstanding play of MCW I think has really inspired this team. As Jim Boeheim has noted recently, MCW has played great all season; we've seen the scoring slumps and the turnovers, but overall, Coach is right. But the fact we're not seeing the slumps or the turnovers like we had, just make it look like he's playing so much better. Can't argue with stats.
- But if anything else, it's probably the play of Brandon Triche that's really helping put Syracuse over the top. Against Marquette, Brandon scored nine points, with six rebounds and three assists. He didn't have a great shooting game (maybe spent a bit too much against Indiana?) but he's out there playing with confidence he hasn't had all season. He's a senior leader, so for him to play with that confidence is huge for the team.
- Rakeem Christmas stepped up and contributed a lot more in this game, much to the pleasure of Jimmy Fallon and Orange fans everywhere. He hit some clutch free throws and played good defense in splitting time with Baye Moussa Keita.
- Syracuse had six turnovers. Only six. Chew on that.
- Those six turnovers led to a whopping zero points for Marquette. However, the 14 turnovers of Marquette led to 19 Orange points. Thank you, zone. Fastbreak points favored Syracuse 8-0, too.
- Syracuse led in points in the paint 26-16.
Though Syracuse got off to a very slow start in the second half (I remember standing and clapping for what seemed like forever), the Orange kept the lead. The lead was never in doubt, but with the lead hovering between nine and eleven points, you never really felt like the game had been put away until late in the game. For me, I think it was just under two minutes to go when Brandon hit two free throws to put Syracuse up by 16, and then an MCW three at 34 seconds to really just seal the deal. From there, you'd never know you were in the arena where Georgetown plays its home games. How sweet a feeling it was for Syracuse to raise a trophy on that floor and cut down those nets! Supposedly Syracuse lost to Georgetown twice in the regular season, but I don't even remember that anymore. Ancient history as far as I'm concerned.
And so by winning the East Regional, Syracuse earns a berth in the Final Four, the National Semifinal against South Regional Champion Michigan. Orange::44 has made arrangements (i.e. spent a lot of money) to be in Atlanta to cover the weekend's festivities, games, and hopefully celebrations. It's been ten years since Syracuse made it this far in the bracket, so we have to take advantage of these opportunities. It sounds like a lot of Orange fans will also be making their way to Atlanta, so if you see Brian or I please come say hi! Brian will be bringing you the preview for the game against the Wolverines on Saturday, so check back for that.