Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - A pair of No. 4 seeds meet in the second Final
Four matchup on Saturday night, as the Syracuse Orange tangle with the
Michigan Wolverines for the right to play for the national championship.
The earlier Final Four clash pits Wichita State against Louisville.
Syracuse, under the tutelage of legendary coach Jim Boeheim, is appearing in
its fifth Final Four and its first since winning it all back in 2003. Boeheim
is 3-0 in national semifinals (1987, 1996, 2003), and the Orange own a record
of 60-35 all-time in the tournament.
SU earned its way to Atlanta by knocking off Montana (81-34), California
(66-60), Indiana (61-50) and Marquette (55-39), and the team has won seven of
its last eight games dating back to the Big East Conference Tournament -- the
lone setback during the stretch coming in that event's championship game
Syracuse (30-9) had lost four of its final five regular season games, and with
the emotion of this being its final campaign in the Big East, the fact that
his team has reached this point is something of a surprise to Boeheim.
"We didn't expect to get here, but you always have that hope. It's a great
feeling. This team has come together, and sometimes that happens at tournament
time." Boeheim continued, "Whenever you get here [Final Four] it's great. I
was disappointed last year as I thought we had the team to do it. But this
team's a good team, and we've been playing good basketball so I'm happy at
It's been 20 years since Michigan last reached the Final Four, as the "Fab
Five" as they were affectionately named, won their 1993 semifinal bout against
Kentucky before falling to North Carolina in the national championship game.
The Wolverines also reached the title tilt the season before, losing to Duke.
Since then, both appearances have been vacated due to NCAA sanctions, but this
year's club is hopeful of playing in Monday's championship game as it seeks
the second national title in program history, the first coming back in 1989.
Michigan's adjusted NCAA Tournament record currently stands at 40-18, and the
team has won five of its last six games -- the loss coming in the quarterfinal
round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament against Wisconsin.
This is Michigan's fifth official Final Four appearance, seventh when taking
into account the two vacated seasons, and the team's 30-7 record this year is
a testament to both the talent on the roster and the coaching job turned in by
John Beilein and his staff. UM's road to Atlanta has featured several easy
wins along with an overtime thriller. Getting past South Dakota State (71-56)
and VCU (78-53) wasn't really an issue, but it took a miracle shot from star
guard Trey Burke to help propel the club past Kansas (87-85 in OT), and then
it used the momentum garnered from that win to whip Florida (79-59) in last
Sunday's South Regional final.
Beilein, who has never beaten a Boeheim-coached squad in nine previous
opportunities, spoke about reaching this point for the first time in his 36-
year coaching career.
"I didn't think much about that; I didn't think it was possible because I
didn't think about it. I'm sort of always thinking about what can we do right
now to be a better team, what can I do to be a better coach, a better father,
a better teacher. Always with the idea that if you do all those things,
anything is possible in your life."
Syracuse owns an 8-5 series advantage over Michigan, with the most recent
encounter taking place in the 2010 Legends Classic which the Orange won in a
53-50 final. This bout marks the first-ever meeting between the two in the
In last weekend's East Regional final against fellow Big East member
Marquette, James Southerland scored 16 points, C.J. Fair tallied 13 points and
six rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams finished with 12 points, eight
boards, six assists and five steals to lead the Orange to a relatively easy
win. SU played exceptional defense, taking advantage of 14 turnovers while
limiting the Golden Eagles to 22.6 percent field goal efficiency, which
included a woeful 3-of-24 showing from 3-point range.
Carter-Williams, who was named the East Region's MVP, has been the catalyst
for Syracuse for much of the season, as he is averaging 12.1 points, 4.9
caroms and 7.4 helpers per contest. Fair (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is the club's
leading scorer and rebounder, and additional production comes from both
Brandon Triche (13.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Southerland (13.5 ppg, 5.2
rpg). Rakeem Christmas rounds out the starting five, and while he isn't much
of a threat offensively (5.1 ppg), he can be a game-changer on defense (72
blocks). Carter-Williams is also a defensive whiz, notching 109 of the team's
Syracuse nets an average of 70.8 ppg while permitting a mere 58.6 ppg -- the
latter figure ranking the team 21st in the country. Its .368 field goal
percentage against ranks third-best nationally.
Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (22 points, three assists) drained all six of his
3-point attempts, five of which came during a 19-point first half, and the
Wolverines put forth a solid defensive effort as they routed third-seeded
Florida last weekend to punch their ticket to Atlanta. Burke tallied 15
points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Mitch McGary added 11 points
and nine boards in the surprisingly easy win. UM wound up going 10-of-19 from
beyond the arc (.526), while at the same time holding the Gators to 41.1
percent accuracy on their total shots, which included a poor 2-of-10 showing
from long range.
Burke (18.8 ppg, 6.8 apg), who was named the 2012-13 Big Ten Player of the
Year and who also won the Wooden Award and Oscar Robertson Trophy as the
national player of the year, is clearly the guy Beilein and the young
Wolverines rely on most. Despite his undeniable talent, Burke isn't the only
one to command attention from opposing teams though, as Tim Hardaway, Jr.
(14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Stauskas (11.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .471 3-point FG percentage),
Glenn Robinson III (11.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and McGary (7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) have all
proven their worth at different times this season.
As a team, Michigan averages 75.5 ppg while allowing 62.9 ppg, and the Maize
and Blue simply don't make many mistakes (9.4 turnovers per tilt) while
converting 48.5 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 38.5
percent mark from beyond the arc.
The Sports Network