Skip to content

Final Four Preview: What you need to know about Syracuse

Apr 1, 2013, 1:03 PM EST

Syracuse Orange guard Michael Carter-Williams reacts after defeating the Indiana Hoosiers in their East Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Washington

Syracuse has really had a storybook season.

The Orange looked great early in the season, but they really began to struggle when James Southerland went out with his academic issues. It didn’t get any easier for the Orange when he got back, as Jim Boeheim struggled to find a way to get his team to buy back into his rotation.

The group was disjointed. There didn’t have much leadership. Their season ended with a 22 point whipping at the hands of arch-nemesis Georgetown. And then there was the 16 point collapse in the Big East tournament title game. And the fire that ripped through Michael Carter-Williams childhood home.

But it all came together for the Orange, as they have no made their way into the Final Four for the first time since Melo had cornrows and wore Orange.

How they got here: Syracuse beat No. 13 seed Montana 81-34 in the opening round, following that up with a win over No. 12 Cal to advance to the Sweet 16. There, in Georgetown’s home arena, Syracuse turned up their defense to a different level, knocking off both Indiana and Marquette and allowing a grand total of just 89 points in the process. It wasn’t pretty. But it worked.

Odds to win the title: 17:4

Read through all of our Final Four coverage here

Why they can win: That defense. Syracuse has allowed just 0.72 PPP in the NCAA tournament. By contrast, Stephen F. Austin led the nation in PPP defense this season at 0.843. To put that into layman’s terms, in a standard, 64-possession basketball game, Syracuse would be allowing about eight points less, on average, than the stingiest defensive team in the country. SFA plays in the Southland. Syracuse beat Indiana on Thursday. Think about that.

Why they won’t win: Can we fully trust the Syracuse back court yet? Don’t get me wrong, Carter-Williams was simply exceptional this weekend, from both a performance and a leadership standpoint. He scored when he needed to score. He distributed when he needed to distribute. He defended, he rebounded, he did it all. But he’s also been inconsistent this season and is still adapting to that leadership role. Given how much he played last year, hes basically a freshman this season.

Will he be able to handle the pressure of the Final Four? Will Brandon Triche, who has had some turnover and consistency issues late in the season, play well enough to win a national title? Both players have had turnover issues this season. What happens if they get matched up with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith again?

Key stat: 15.2%. 14-92. That’s what opponents are shooting from three against the Orange in the four NCAA tournament games. Think about that. Montana shot 31 threes. Marquette shot 25. Indiana was 3-15 from beyond the arc. Michigan is a team that likes to shoot threes. Is that a recipe for disaster?

Game-changer: James Southerland. He’s the most explosive scorer for the Orange, and he’s also their best perimeter shooter. At 6-foot-8, he’s the perfect fit for Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, but also spreads the floor and creates driving lands for the Cuse guards.

Prediction?: I like the Orange knocking off Michigan, but I don’t think that they would knock off Louisville if they played them for a fourth time in the title game.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. St. John’s seniors say they ‘grew up’ against Minnesota, but have they?

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:14 AM EST

    D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo) D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo)

    A lot is riding on this season for St. John’s. Can they consistently be the ‘grown up’ team they claimed to be on Wednesday night?

  2. Late Night Snacks: Two ranked teams fall at the Battle 4 Atlantis

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:07 AM EST

    Kelan Martin, Marcus Paige AP

    Two Big East teams made statements in the Bahamas, and No. 3 Arizona won the Maui Invitational.

  3. The little things made a big difference in No. 3 Arizona’s win over No. 15 San Diego State

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:07 AM EST

    Sean Miller Sean Miller

    Arizona scored 22 points off of 14 San Diego State turnovers, and that along with good foul shooting proved to be the difference.

  4. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s shot propels Georgetown past No. 18 Florida

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:56 AM EST

    D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

    Georgetown committed 19 turnovers, but they shot 49 percent from the field and earned another quality win for the Big East.

  5. Rick Pitino gets his 700th career victory, but his team remains cold from three

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:22 PM EST

    Rick Pitino Rick Pitino

    Through five games Louisville is shooting 24-for-105 from three. They’ll need to shoot better than that when Ohio State visits next Tuesday.

  6. #POSTERIZED: St. John’s forward Sir’Dominic Pointer finishes with authority (VIDEO)

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:11 PM EST

    Sir'Dominic Pointer, Tony Chennault Sir'Dominic Pointer, Tony Chennault

    Sir’Dominic Pointer picked off Minnesota center Elliot Eliason’s outlet pass and made the big man pay for his mistake.

  7. Binghamton’s leading returning scorer, rebounder takes indefinite leave of absence

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:05 PM EST

    Tommy Dempsey Tommy Dempsey

    Justin Reed was one of America East’s best guards in each of his first two seasons, but that hasn’t been the case in 2014-15.

  8. Buddy Hield, improved shot selection the keys in Oklahoma’s win over No. 22 UCLA

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:42 PM EST

    Buddy Hield, Zeek Woodley Buddy Hield, Zeek Woodley

    After launching 22 three-pointers in the first half, Oklahoma took a wiser approach to the offensive end of the floor as they outlasted No. 22 UCLA.

  9. No. 5 North Carolina’s loss highlights issues with their rebounding, toughness

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:29 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It’s hard to put too much stake in one loss, but there are a couple of things from this game that we need to keep an eye on.

  10. Report: Iona reels in well-traveled transfer wing

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:24 PM EST

    Iowa State v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Cameron Biedscheid averaged 6.2 points per game as a freshman at Notre Dame in 2012-13.

  11. Ankle injury to sideline New Mexico’s starting point guard three to five weeks

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:37 PM EST

    Cullen Neal AP

    Joining Cullen Neal on the sideline is Arthur Edwards, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks thanks to a dislocated finger.

  12. Butler upsets No. 5 North Carolina in Battle 4 Atlantis opener

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:51 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The importance of this win for Butler cannot be overstated.

  13. If No. 12 Villanova doesn’t have a star on their roster, no one told JayVaughn Pinkston

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:19 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    JayVaughn Pinkston is the leader and go-to guy for Villanova. And he is not their star because … why?

  14. Charges faced by Minnesota’s Daquein McNeil are quite serious

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    He was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

  15. Late Night Snacks: Nova holds off Michigan, Maryland upsets Iowa State, Arkansas gets big road win

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:10 AM EST

    Progressive Legends Classic Getty Images

    Another busy night of college hoops as the Maui semifinals wrap up and Arkansas gets a statement road win.

  16. Maryland upsets No. 13 Iowa State as fearless freshmen mix with gritty veterans for balanced effort

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:50 PM EST

    maryland AP

    Maryland pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the young season as they outplayed No. 13 Iowa State for much of the game in front of a pro-Cyclone crowd in Kansas City.