On the morning of SU’s huge tilt with Virginia, the Fizz takes a look back at the last Final Four run that the Orange made. How did it find itself just two wins away from a national championship? Let’s reminisce.
Round of 64
Syracuse crushes Montana in the opening round as a four seed over a thirteen. You think the Orange is being disrespected as a ten seed now? Well, CBS analyst Seth Davis said that Montana would do the unthinkable and upset SU in the first round. Safe to say, that didn’t exactly work out as planned. The Orange dominated Montana 81-34, led by Brandon Triche (20 points), CJ Fair (13 points), and Dajuan Coleman (12 points). Syracuse outrebounds the Grizzlies 40-29 and forces 17 turnovers. With doubts looming, the Orange sets the tone for the rest of the tournament on opening weekend.
Round of 32
The Orange matches up with Cal in the second round and plays a much closer game, in tune to a 66-60 win. Fair, Michael Carter Williams, James Southerland, and even Baye Keita reach double figures in scoring to carry the Orange to the win. Despite shooting 39 percent from the field, SU holds the Golden Bears to just 19 percent shooting from three (4-of-21) and puts nearly half of Cal’s lineup into serious foul trouble. Four players finish the game with four fouls and two more have three. The starting five combines for 18 of a maximum 25 allowed fouls. The Orange would beat Cal again next season in the Maui Invitational.
A huge matchup with the top-ranked Hoosiers looms and one of the most hyped games isn’t quite as close as everyone thought it would be. The Orange’s 2-3 zone shuts down Tom Crean’s future NBA-caliber roster and shocks the world with a 61-50 win. By halftime, SU already led by 12 points and never looked back. While Carter-Williams led the way with 24 points, it was Syracuse’s defense that won the game and sent the team to the Elite 8. Indiana turned the ball over 17 times, while its stars had tough nights from the field. The team shot just 34 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three. Victor Oladipo was held to just 16 points, while Cody Zeller scored only ten. Crean’s team is dominated once again during the following season as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
As hyped as the Indiana win was, that’s how quietly the Orange took care of business against Big East foe Marquette. Like the Indiana matchup, Syracuse dominates defensively and holds the Golden Eagles to just 39 points. Marquette shoots just 23 percent from the field and 32 percent from three, while SU hits 38 percent of its shots and 42 percent from three. Led by Southerland, Fair, and Carter-Williams, SU coasts to its Final Four appearance in style by forcing 13 turnovers and limiting Marquette to just 12 made field goals. Despite not facing longtime rival Marquette since, SU now faced former head coach Buzz Williams in the ACC.
What can we learn from this? The 2-3 zone giveth and taketh away. If SU puts forth a strong defensive performance against Virginia like it has against its first three opponents, the Orange will have a chance. Facing a conference foe in the Elite 8 shouldn’t be nearly as scary as it seems, as SU was able to beat Marquette in the same scenario three years ago. How do you think this year’s tournament run compares to 2013’s?