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Final Four Preview: No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 4 Michigan

Apr 6, 2013, 10:02 AM EDT

Indiana v Syracuse Getty Images

This game needs to be a classic.

We need it to be great.

As a whole, the tournament has been kind of a bust this season. Florida Gulf Coast was fun while it lasted. Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross have hit some game-winners. Marquette played a couple exciting first weekend games. But the majority of the games have been blowouts. Even Wichita State’s run to the Final Four has been a bore, for the most part.

But this game? It has the chance to be a classic. Player of the Year vs. the toughest defense in the tournament. The most surprising freshman vs. the most athletic front line in the country. John Beilein vs. Jim Boeheim. Three point shooters vs. the zone.

Most importantly, two of the five most talented teams in the country squaring off on the biggest stage when they’re playing their best basketball. It should be fun.

Key Player: Mitch McGary

McGary has been arguably the best player in the tournament to date. He’s averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 boards through four games, single-handedly keeping the Wolverines in the game against Kansas for 33 minutes and then setting the tone in the blowout win over Florida. And the big fella has a pretty good matchup with this Syracuse team. Their big guys are long and athletic, but they aren’t nearly as physical as McGary is. There are few big men in the country that are as long and athletic as Jeff Withey, and eight days ago he gave the Kansas all-american 25 points and 14 boards.

Key Matchup: Trey Burke guarding Michael Carter-Williams

It feels obvious to say that the key matchup is the most important player from one team guarding the most important player from the other team, but it’s true. Carter-Williams is going to have a good five inches on Burke, and the last time we saw him going up against a guy where he had that kind of a size advantage, Carter-Williams gave Yogi Ferrell and Jordy Hulls 24 points in his best offensive performance of the season. That was in the Sweet 16. Will it be the same deal in the Final Four? Who knows, but I do know that Michigan cannot win if Burke cannot at least make things difficult for the Syracuse star.

Key Stat: 12-94

That’s what opponents are shooting from three against Syracuse in this tournament. Michigan has relied on the three-ball as much as anyone in the country this season. The Wolverines don’t have a chance if those three-balls aren’t going down.

Who Wins?: It’s going to come down to the final possession, which means that I’m going with Michigan. You don’t bet against Trey Burke in the clutch.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. polegojim - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Since I’m a Michigan fan… our games have been very engaging and exciting.

    Hardaway and Robinson need to step up on both sides – way more than their recent results. The Orange will be hawking Stauskas and Burke, and collapsing on McGary.

    Step up guys. Get this done.

    • polegojim - Apr 6, 2013 at 11:44 PM

      Hardaway and Robinson DID IT!

      Stepped Up…. B1G… Time!

      GO BLUE!!!!!!!!

      Tough, tough win. Glad to see Man to Man D.

  2. beelza - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    This tourney, ‘Cuse has played no one that is even in the same universe as far as points per possession. UM rolls, their best offense is better than ‘Cuse best defence. And Hugh Jackman is rooting for Trey Burke and his Wolverines.

    • woodyqq2 - Apr 6, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      You are a B-ball wizard. I’ll bet you make a lots of Stupid comments

  3. cusenation87 - Apr 6, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Indiana had a better offense and 3 point shooting than Michigan. How did that matchup turn out? Michigan hasn’t seen a defense even close to the zone SU is playing now also Beilein hasn’t ever won against Boeheim.

    • polegojim - Apr 6, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      Well…. GUESS WHAT 87????????

  4. barnesaintnoble - Apr 6, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Indiana had the better offense over the course of the season, but since McGary has been in the starting lineup, Michigan has. If you look at tournament games, Michigan has had the best offense out of the 68 teams by a longshot. Indiana’s best 3 point shooter had a separated shoulder. There is a big (HUGE) difference between Indiana’s point guard and Trey Burke, Michigan has the LOWEST turnover margin in the nation. Beilein has never beat Boeheim, but he’s never had any roster like this. His last win against Beilein was by 3 points on a neutral site. There is a reason Michigan is a 2 point favorite. It will be a close game, but I think Michigan wins it. If Syracuse fans are anything like Florida and Kansas fans, they should find a player now that they can throw under the bus postgame. (Johnson and Murphy)

    • beelza - Apr 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Exactly, tourney stats tell the story. Hulls and Sheehey v. ‘Cuse were 0-9 from 3-point. IU turned the ball over 18 times. But hey, I hope Jimmy B used seasonal stats in his prep and practice. Billy D did, and look what happened to him.

  5. cusenation87 - Apr 6, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    SU is letting up 48 ppg in the tournament so I guess that doesn’t matter either? It will be interesting to see if Burke is guarding MCW. He has a 5″ to 6″ height advantage on him and if MCW is able to get 1 on 1 in the post he might be able to draw a few early fouls on Burke. I think the player who makes the biggest difference is McGary and if he continues to play the way he has. If regular season stats don’t matter then why do you suppose they keep them?

  6. boyshole25 - Apr 6, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    It’ll be fun to watch for sure

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