The calm before the Storm

Elijah Fisher (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Elijah Fisher (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Apr 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim during practice at the Georgia Dome. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Final Four Saturday is upon us! With our editor Kevin Weinheimer taking in the action from Atlanta, I thought I’d give you some of my thoughts/questions/predictions for the game tomorrow:

  • Which Triche are we getting?

Here are Triche’s point totals from the first 4 games: Montana (20), California (8), Indiana (14), Marquette (9). Sense any patterns? I feel like he’s due here for a big game, and we’ll need him to be hitting shots against Michigan. Michael Carter-Williams has been getting all of the press for his great play in the tourney, which is well deserved. However, I’ve seen way too many lapses from MCW this season to be confident that he won’t mistakes in the Final Four. As long as Triche is taking over some ball handling and getting to the basket, it takes an immense amount of pressure off Carter-Williams to do it all. I’ve said it all year: Syracuse goes as far as Brandon Triche takes them. No one (not even MCW) has a bigger affect on Syracuse’s fate.

  • Jerami Grant will play a big role

Talking last night to another Orange fan, he was adament that Jerami Grant would be the key in this game. You know what? I kind of like that. Grant came off the bench against Indiana for nine really quality minutes. He hit both shots he took and played tremendous defense. When he’s active in the zone, I’d contend he is as good as any of our big men at altering and blocking shots. Jerami only played three minutes against Marquette, and it turned out we didn’t really need him. I think against Michigan we will. If Grant can come in and provide five good minutes each half, it will be a huge boost to the Orange.

  • Michigan will shoot over 25 threes

This isn’t a groundbreaking prediction by any means, but I think it’s worth noting that this team isn’t shy about firing up shots. They’ve attempted anywhere from 16-20 threes per game so far in the tournament, facing predominantly man-to-man defense. Undoubtedly prepared by a week of preparation by Beilein and a point guard who can create, Michigan will be getting open looks from three. Will they be able to make a ridiculous percentage in a short amount of time like they did against Florida? That will depend on if Syracuse can extend effectively and hope for an off shooting night. The way they closed out on Indiana & Marquette’s shooters was phenomenal. The atmosphere and dome setting will also have an effect on so many jumpers, which brings me to my final thought …

  • Get out to a quick start, and Syracuse will win

I truly believe it’s that simple. If Syracuse gets off to a terrific start (hitting jumpers, crisp passing, no turnovers, active hands on defense) and Michigan misses their first few shots, I think momentum takes over. This Michigan squad has no senior that plays meaningful minutes, and they haven’t played a game of this magnitude as a program for almost 20 years. They’ve been hearing all week how historically good the Syracuse zone is, that you never fully understand how hard it is to score until you face it. All it takes is a seed of doubt to be placed in their minds, a reason to think they may not have what it takes.

Conversely, a few quick three pointers by Michigan out of the gate could swing the game the other way. The Wolverines will gain early confidence and have a feeling that the zone isn’t “that good,” that they can actually hang with us. Giving a young team any confidence early is dangerous.

Here’s my big prediction: if Syracuse is leading by double digits at the 10 minute mark in the 1st half, they will close out the next 30 and win. Call it my “10-minute theory.” What do you think they keys to tomorrow’s game are?