Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone has prevented great guards from scoring in this tournament. Orange Nation worried Cal’s Allen Crabbe, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, and Marquette’s Vander Blue would be able to bust the zone and find ways to score. Instead, SU’s defense has been historically good and shut down all of the elite scorers its faced en route to Atlanta.
The next task for the Orange tonight is AP National Player of the Year Trey Burke of Michigan. Burke is the biggest offensive concern for Syracuse as best point guard in the nation. He can shoot from deep, drive to the basket, and is an all-around quick and physical player with a penchant for coming up big in crunch time.
Syracuse’s 2-3 will attempt to stop Burke, but he has other options. Freshman Nik Stauskas has been great for the Wolverines, and classmate Mitch McGary has played his best basketball of his career. Indiana was similar with Oladipo who could dish to Cody Zeller, Christian Watford or Will Sheehey. When Oladipo tried to pass down low it resulted in turnovers and Syracuse turned those into points. If SU plays a similar game it could find itself playing in the National Championship game.
Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche were the two who have to limit turnovers. When Louisville played the press at MSG Carter-Williams and Triche couldn’t control the ball and it resulted in a flurry for the Cards. Every game in the NCAA tournament the opposition has turned the ball over more than the Orange. Syracuse has also recorded more steals than its opponents. The 2-3 is working remarkably well and is holding opponents to impossibly low totals. Montana scored a paltry 34 points. Cal got to 60 only with a big second half. Indiana tallied 50. Marquette scored a measly 39, after dropping 74 on Syracuse in its win back in February.
As long as the zone can prevent Burke from scoring from deep it should force him into tough passes. If Syracuse is focused and physical, it will intercept those loose balls and turn them into points. It’s also important for James Southerland to be much active. If Burke can beat the zone Southerland has to be on from beyond the arc. He needs to be hot for SU’s offense to pick up the slack.
Syracuse needs two more wins to win its second championship in a decade. Luckily it’s playing its best basketball all year.
Posted: Austin Pollack