Michigan Takes on Syracuse in Final Four Clash

The Michigan Wolverines will take on the Syracuse Orange in a historic Final Four match this Saturday; the Wolverines are currently sitting as 2.5-poin t favorites, though the line will undoubtedly swing more in Cuse’s direction by tip-off time. Still, Michigan has shown this tournament, led by Trey Burke, that they’re a legitimate contender for the national championship.

 

“I said it in the summer and the coaches kind of got on me saying we can be national championship contenders. But that was coming from my heart,” said Burke. “I knew once we put the talent with the toughness and execution, then I knew this team could be special. We’re coming together at the right time.”

 

The zone defense that Syracuse runs so well has two critical weaknesses: spot-up shooters and athletic perimeter players that can penetrate through the net created by Syracuse’s long-armed players. Michigan has both qualities. In the shooting department, freshman Nik Stauskas shot a perfect six for six from beyond the arc against the Florida Gators. It’s important to note that his performance came against a zone scheme, one similar to the defense he’ll see against the Orange on Saturday.

 

“I can’t even explain the feeling. I was having so much fun,” Stauskas said. “I’ve been working and dreaming my whole life about something like this. To finally have it, I have a smile on my face and I’m enjoying the moment.”

 

The Orange had a dreadful offensive performance in their Elite 8 match against Marquette, shooting only 38 percent from the field. However, they thoroughly stifled the Golden Eagles with their famed zone defense, hassling them into turnovers and scoring in transition. That kind of D works against slower and less athletic teams, but Michigan is not that. Syracuse has shown this season that their zone can be penetrated by quick, athletic perimeter scorers, and Michigan excels at that kind of offense.

 

Here are some statistics and trends for both teams in this match-up, courtesy of both USA Today and OddsShark.com:

 

Michigan

Regular Season Record: 26-7
Conference Record: 12-6 (Big Ten)
Conference Tournament Results: Lost to Wisconsin in semifinals
Top Players: Trey Burke (Guard), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Guard)
Top 25 Wins: NC State (#18), Minnesota (#9), Ohio State (#10), Michigan State (#9)
Worst Losses: Michigan State (75-52), Penn State (84-78)
RPI Ranking: 17

Syracuse

Regular Season Record: 26-9
Conference Record: 11-7 (Big East)
Conference Tournament Results: Lost to Louisville in final
Top Players: C.J. Fair (Forward), James Southerland (Forward)
Top 25 Wins: San Diego State (#20), Louisville (#1), Cincinnati (#21), Notre Dame (#25), Pittsburgh (#17)
Worst Losses: Georgetown (61-39)
RPI Ranking: 13

Michigan Wolverines Trends:
When playing on Saturday are 7-3
After playing Florida are 1-0
After a win are 5-5

Syracuse Orange Trends:
When playing on Saturday are 7-3
After playing Marquette are 5-2
After a win are 6-4

A few Wolverines at Orange trends to consider:
Syracuse is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Syracuse’s last 6 games

Final Prediction: Michigan 73 Syracuse 68

Michigan is simply too fast and have too many capable shooters to be bothered by Syracuse. The zone is a great defensive scheme, but NBA-style offenses like Michigan’s can blow the doors off it. I love the Wolverines to cover the 2.5-point spread here.

 

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