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Wolverines Watch: Syracuse’s Keys to a Final Four Dance Against Michigan

Star Tribune

Who in their right minds thought we would be writing about Syracuse in Atlanta a month ago? When Jim Boeheim started talking about golf it seemed like a lost season and a potential early exit for the Orange. Now there are three big time programs and a Cinderella story remaining to cut down the nets in the Peach State.

An early look at the Orange has to revolve around the key to these wins: the stellar defense to mitigate the potential damage of Trey Burke and the Wolverines attack. Orange Nation realizes it would be Kansas if Burke did not that hit that incredible trey with 6 seconds left from way beyond the arc. Most thought the game was over, but Michigan came roaring back to clinch a Final Four berth.

The Orange is going to have to play the same suffocating defense that got it to Atlanta to have a fighting chance against Michigan. The Wolverines rely on the play of their guards and outside shooting. Based on Michigan’s last game, the Orange has to be focused on putting defensive pressure on Nik Stauskas beyond the arc. Stauskas was lights out from 3-point land, going 6-for-6 against the Gators. Burke is the obvious main threat for SU. Burke has the ability to take over games and must be extremely confident after the recent late game success. Mitch McGary, the 6’10” center has also led Michigan after a slow end to the regular season. However if the Orange took care of Cody Zeller and Davante Gardner, McGary may not be a problem for Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita in the interior.

The key for the Orange is setting a defensive tone early which leads to points on the other end of the floor. The offense thrives when the defense is running efficiently and the 2-3 zone effectiveness has been amazing. James Southerland is ready to take the challenge of competing with Stauskas beyond the arc, tweeting: “I could wreck Stauskas with my 3s. #FinalFour,” while Michigan was pouring it on Florida yesterday.

While added pressure is rarely a good thing, the Orange has to realize that this is an opportunity to get Boeheim his elusive second banner in the Carrier Dome. Maybe there’s some mojo cooking. It’s the 10th year anniversary since the Orange won it in 2003 and Carmelo Anthony has been making friendly wagers with his current coach and players with each game. The Orange must not get ahead of itself however. It has been an accomplishment just to get this far but history awaits with every game.

Posted: Zephan Mayell

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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