The Syracuse Orange look to get back to the Elite Eight for the second season in a row with a win over the top seeded Indiana Hoosiers. Tip off is set for 9:40 pm from the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
For such a short turnover, this game has had a lot of buildup, second only to Michigan State versus Duke for Sweet Sixteen games. Indiana is in the midst of their 37th NCAA Tournament appearance, while Syracuse is making their run in their 36th NCAA Tournament appearance. We all know by know about the last time these two teams faced in the NCAA Tournament, and we will be constantly reminded of it during the pregame. This is a game that can go either way, and the team that executes their game plan better will victorious in front of a sold out Verizon Center crowd.
But make no mistake about it: Indiana is a great basketball team.
The Hoosiers have a dominant offense this season in college basketball, with four players averaging 9 points or more scoring. Despite all of their balanced scoring, the Hoosiers heavily rely on two key components. Junior Victor Oladipo is one of four finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award, and All-American sophomore Cody Zeller cause fits for every defense they’ve gone against all season long. Both can be absolute forces inside, and the Syracuse defense will have to try to limit them as much as possible within the zone.
Another key to the Indiana offense is senior Christian Watford. It is scary that I am referring to Watford as the third option on this team, especially considering the fact that he is the active leader in the Big Ten in points and rebounds with 1,717 points and 770 rebounds. Watford is another player that can kill you on the glass and score, and can’t be left alone or he will make plays all night long.
For Syracuse, I believe the play from the guards are going to be critical in this contest. In the first two games of the tournament, both Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams have done a great job at driving and dishing, enabling CJ Fair on numerous occasions to knock down an open jump shot. Fair is the most consistent player on this Syracuse team, so getting him open looks is big. This also enables James Southerland to hover around the three point line, where he has been shooting lights out since the Big East Tournament began last week. If the guards are driving the lane, they should be able to get to the free throw line, where the Orange will take all the free points they can get. The free throw number will be a critical stat for either team by the game’s end, and it is important for Syracuse to have the edge in this department.
Defensively, the Orange will need a big game from their big men as well. Baye Keita has been playing great basketball since the Big East Tournament began, and if he can continue the trend it could go a long way in helping Syracuse neutralize that dominant inside presence that Indiana has. This also can allow Rakeem Christmas to get aggressive defensively, because he wouldn’t be as worried about picking up fouls with a sturdy Keita playing well defensively. If Syracuse can force Indiana to play their game from beyond the three point line, Syracuse could have a great chance at getting a victory.
Here are the probable starting lineups tonight for both teams:
|#2 Christian Watford, F, Senior||#5 CJ Fair, F, Junior|
|#40 Cody Zeller, F, Sophomore||#43 James Southerland, F, Senior|
|#1 Jordan Hulls, G, Senior||#25 Rakeem Christmas, F, Sophomore|
|#4 Victor Oladipo, G, Junior||#1 Michael Carter-Williams, G, Soph.|
|#11 Yogi Ferrell, G, Freshman||#20 Brandon Triche, G, Senior|
I believe that this game will come down to both turnovers and free throws, and that this game is a virtual coin flip. Both teams are incredibly gifted athletically, and both teams have the ability to make big plays. If the Syracuse zone can force the Hoosiers in to a lot of outside shots, Syracuse will without a doubt be in position to win the game in the final minutes.