Saturday is the beginning of the end of this years college basketball season. Syracuse, Michigan, Louisville, and Wichita St. earned their way into Atlanta for the Final Four. So what are the best chances at each team winning it all? Good question because The answer is below.
Syracuse vs Michigan
Lets start with the orange’s 2-3 zone. Some people consider it to be the perfect zone, and it is pretty darn close. For years teams have struggled to find the zone’s weakness and in the orange’s 3 game skid to Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville, they put that weakness into the light, outside shooting. But that’s not as easy as it seems.
Here are some zone numbers from the Orange. Syracuse and their zone held their opponents to 28.9% in the tournament so far and the reason they have made it this far is that they have allowed 17.9% from outside the 3-point arch, and 11.1% against Marquette. They have forced 67 turnovers and have only allowed 61 made baskets in the tournament so far. They have allowed only 123, lest amount ever in 64 team tournament history. In the regular season Indiana scored 115.3 points per every 100 possessions, but in the Elite 8 game against the orange they were held to 76.7 points per 100 possessions, their worst since meeting Wake Forest 5 years ago.
Going against the team that is one of the best outside shooting teams in the country, with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. Although Burke has not shoot well from outside the arch during the tournament, he has made key threes and is able to drive into the lane and create opportunities.
It will be the battle of the guards. Michigan’s Burke and Hardaway have to go against their hardest test yet with Syracuse’s guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. They will have a tough time on Saturday but that does not mean you should count them out, Michigan has shot just over 50% against the zone this year so it will come down to how the numbers match up.
Louisville vs Wichita St
Wichita St may lose the Cinderella team award to Florida Gulf Coast but they definitely a close second. They started the tournament with a win against a very good Pittsburgh team, then beat an adequate team in Gonzaga, then the 13 seeded La Salle, and to cap it off the upset win over Ohio State. But that’s expected out of an unexpected run to the Final Four by a 9 seed. What makes them different is their strange number of players that could easily play for Big 6 teams. Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead and Cleanthony Early were all junior college players last year, so their talent level does not reflect what their conference shows. Teams assume that they can shoot on them which is not the case. Their defense allowed 28% for outside the 3-point line, third in this tournament. Hall blocks shots like it is his job and Armstead creates opportunities with his aggressiveness on offense. But what really puts teams behind the 8 ball against this team is the Shockers ability to get off to a quick start.
Louisville hasn’t lost a game since February 9 in a 5 overtime game to Notre Dame. The Cards can always seem to throw a game plan on the court and execute it. After Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury, they were able to rally together and go on a run to put Duke way out of reach. They dictate the game to their advantage and control almost every aspect the game they can. But like every team they have flaws. Most their offense comes off of steals and defensive pressure, so if they run into a team or player (Trey Burke) that can maintain possession, they won’t be able to create as many offensive opportunities for themselves. They also aren’t a great outside shooting team so if you can keep them out of the paint there is a good chance they won’t put up more then 45 points. But there is no room for error because as soon as they see a weakness, they will attack and make you pay.
I wouldn’t count the Shockers out even though Vegas says to. There is a lot more to this team than what meets the eye. It will be a well fought battle between the two teams and I don’t know who will win.
Both games Saturday are going to be thrilling and they could really go either way. We’ll just have to wait and find out.