Saturday, April 6, 2013

Making their first Final Four appearance since 1993, Michigan meets fourth seeded Syracuse, one of two Big East teams remaining in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Fresh off yesterday's reception of the 2013 John R. Wooden and Oscar Robinson National Player of the year awards, Trey Burke figures to be the X-factor for the Wolverines. Though Burke's points are down during the NCAA Tournament from his regular season totals, the sophomore's game changing heroics saved Michigan's season against Kansas. Burke is one of the few players in the NCAA with the capability to take over games, and has done so on several occasions throughout the season.

Michigan head coach John Beilein and Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim are no strangers to one another. During nine years coaching at division II LeMoyne college, Beilein would often listen to Syracuse games on the radio, and occasionally see Boeheim in the stands. As a coach at West Virginia, Beilein compiled a 0-8 record against Boeheim, and is looking for his first win ever against the Hall-of-Fame head coach.

Matchup to watch: Michigan offense vs. Syracuse defense

Out of the four remaining teams, The Wolverines have arguably the deepest and most complete rotation. Guards Trey Burke (15.5 ppg, 7.8 apg) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.5 ppg, 3 apg) offer the complete package of shooting, driving, and dishing, while Mitch McGary (17.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg), and Glenn Robinson III (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) have dominated on the boards. Nik Stauskas (12.3 ppg) is the NCAA Tournament's most accurate three point shooter, and went 6-6 from behind the arc in Michigan's 79-59 Elite 8 win over Florida.

Syracuse has thrived defensively in their four Tournament victories, thanks to a stingy 2-3 zone defense focused on attacking opposing offenses. The Orange are surrendering a mere 45.8 points per game, and held Montana (34), Marquette (39), and Indiana (50) to their lowest point totals of the season. Syracuse's opponents have shot 28.9% from the floor and 15.4% from three-point range.

"It's incredible," acknowledged Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "I would have never thought those numbers would be possible."

When Michigan is on defense...

The Wolverines have had mixed results. Michigan is surrendering 63.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, and opponents are shooting 45% from the field. Thanks to the most athletic roster he's ever coached, John Beilein hasn't needed the 1-3-1 zone in this year's tournament, and Michigan's pressure man-to-man scheme has limited opponents to 25% shooting behind the arc.

The size of Syracuse's forwards may present a problem for the Wolverines. Standing at 6-8, 210 pounds each are junior C.J. Fair (14.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), senior James Southerland (13.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg), and freshman Jerami Grant (4 ppg, 2.8 rpg). Fair and Southerland each shoot over 40% from three point range.

"We feel like it creates matchup problems for opposing defenses," said Fair of the forwards' ability to shoot the three.

The meeting is the first between the Michigan and Syracuse since November 26, 2010, in which the Orange defeated the Wolverines 53-50. A total of 17 of the 30 roster players from that game will also be on Saturday's rosters.