After losing arguably their four best players, Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are back in the Elite Eight for the second season in a row. The Orange are a win against Marquette away from the Final Four, which would be their first since winning the National Championship in 2003.
It is of little surprise that the East regional final is an all-Big East affair. As much as people want to knock the conference in favor of the Big Ten, the Big East has ensured that they will have a team in the Final Four for the fifth season in a row. That is a staggering statistic, and speaks to the competitiveness and talent of the conference year in and year out. It definitely rehashes the thoughts of sadness that the conference will not be the same after this season, but it’s hard for an outsider to not respect what the conference has accomplished in it’s history.
Yes, Marquette beat the Orange 74-71 during the regular season. Marquette enjoyed 35 free throw attempts to Syracuse’s 7 in that game, and the Orange were still right there at the end of the game. Despite the free throw disparity, Syracuse still enjoyed a nine point lead in the second half before falling late. I don’t think there is any chance this game plays in the 70s again, and that plays to Syracuse’s advantage. If the Orange can hold Marquette in to the 50s or low 60s, I really like Syracuse’s chances to go to the Final Four.
The Golden Eagles were very impressive in their win over Miami. The capitalized on a bad ‘Canes shooting night, and hit a lot of tough shots in their blowout win. Miami is a great team, and Marquette made them look silly on numerous occasions throughout the evening. Marquette is playing as well as Syracuse is right now, which will make this game a classic on Saturday. I believe that Syracuse has the athleticism and the intensity on defense to give Marquette a difficult time, and if they can keep Devante Gardner from getting to the free throw line as much as they did in their meeting in February, the Orange should be cutting down the nets and celebrating in the Verizon Center.