Not many fans thought D.C. would be the place of good fortune for Orange three weeks ago. Now it could be the site of SU’s dance into the Final Four. Prior to Syracuse’s win over top-seeded Indiana 61-50 at the Verizon Center, the last time the Orange played on that court was when Georgetown ripped SU to pieces, 61-39 back on March 9th.
Thursday night was a different story. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone led Syracuse to a dominating win over the Hoosiers. Indiana was a Final Four favorite and many picked the Hoosiers to win the championship. Syracuse made sure that wouldn’t be the case in the Sweet 16. Now Marquette is the only team that stands in the way of Boeheim’s fourth trip to the Final Four.
Going into the IU game, Syracuse had to do three things to win: limit turnovers, make Indiana force the ball inside, and frustrate the Hoosiers. It did all of that. The win started with Michael Carter-Williams and his electric offense. He scored a career-high 24 points and only one turnover. He was matched up with Victor Oladipo, an elite all-around player. But the battle between two future NBA draft picks went to MCW who outplayed Oladipo.
Syracuse was able to limit the turnovers, and will have to do the same today. The Orange found a way to force more turnovers on Indiana (18) and grab more steals (Syracuse had 12, Indiana had five). Syracuse created easy buckets in transition from those possession swaps, and needs to do the same against the Eagles. The Orange fought for loose balls and intercepted passes from guards into the paint, overall perplexing IU with the zone.
Indiana couldn’t solve the 2-3, but Marquette has already solved it this season. The unfamiliarity with the zone won’t factor into the game today. The Eagles took the regular season matchup 74-71 and buried the zone by working it down low to Devante Gardiner. The Hoosiers tried to do too much with the ball and it resulted in steals for the Orange and turnovers for Indiana.
Indiana had no choice but to pass the ball to the inside because the outside shooting was terrible. Vander Blue will need to shoot over the zone for MU, but without it the Eagles will sink like IU. The zone has been so effective in the tournament and kept opposing shooters silent. People talked about how great of a shooter Cal’s Allen Crabbe was, but Syracuse shut him down. Oladipo and Jordan Hulls were also highly discussed. But Oladipo’s 16 came on drives to the basket and few open shots.
Cody Zeller had 10 points and 10 rebounds, but wasn’t truly a factor in this game. Syracuse was much more aggressive on the glass and needs to do the same thing today. Marquette has better size inside than IU, so Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita become huge factors today. The Orange was quick and able to react faster on defense to intercept passes and pick up loose balls on bounce passes into the paint against Indiana. It’ll have to do the same thing against the Eagles.
Indiana was frustrated from the beginning and keeping Marquette down early is key. In the Sweet 16, the Orange was tough and more physical. It’ll have to bring that same style today.
Posted: Austin Pollack