NCAA Tournament Championship Weekend: #4 Michigan Vs. #4 Syracuse
- CoachingThis has been the coming-out party for John Beilein, who is finally benefiting from his hard work and dedication – along with some prized recruits. Now in his first Final Four, a national championship would loft him to new heights.What makes Jim Boeheim so special isn’t just his long run of successes – it’s the way he does it. Everybody left this Syracuse team for dead, and then the Orange go out and upset Indiana, take care of Marquette. This Final Four appearance – his fourth -- is well earned.
- OffenseThe Wolverines score in bunches, and while that can be a risky way to play, it can also be deadly. Straight off the bat, Michigan strangled a talented Gators squad with instant offense, and this came after the incredible heroics against Kansas. If Nik Stauskas hits 6-6 threes again like he did vs. the Gators, forget it.As you might expect, the Orange have not been winning these games with offense. C.J. Fair, James Southerland and company shot a paltry 38 percent against Marquette and only managed 61 points against Indiana – yet won both games comfortably.
- DefenseThe Wolverines sport an above-average defense, but they rely more on containment than forcing turnovers. They also do an incredible job of avoiding fouls, often never allowing teams to reach the bonus.As in previous editions, it’s time yet again to laud Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. The Orange are stifling opponents in jaw-dropping ways. Indiana? 50 points on 33-percent shooting. Marquette? Just 39 points! The Golden Eagles aren’t known for their shooting, but Syracuse embarrassed them.
- Bench DepthSpike Albrecht is the only guy getting serious minutes off the bench right now, and he averaged just 7.7 minutes a game during the season. The Wolverines are rolling with their starters to the end.For the Orange, the only significant bench player is Baye Keita, who eats up a ton of minutes while patrolling the floor defensively. The important thing is, Syracuse can survive foul trouble with that kind of reliable size just ready to be summoned.
Both teams are playing exceptionally well right now. Michigan will have to shoot through the zone if it’s going to crack the Orange curtain, something they have proven they can do. Should be a fantastic game!