The Big East will live on for a little longer as it is guaranteed to have at least one team in the Final Four. The last time these two teams met Marquette rallied from behind for a 3 point win. This time around they will be playing for the right to continue representing their dying conference in the dance. They are two great teams with two completely different styles. Syracuse is an exclusively zone defense team that plays with a limited bench. Marquette plays as many as 12 players in some games and will play a variety of defenses with most of them providing pressure on the offense.
Miami was the hottest team entering the tournament and played like it through the first two rounds. Odds makers had them at a 3-4 point favorite in their game vs. Marquette. We have learned to expect the unexpected in this tournament so we should have expected Marquette to take an early double digit lead and never really seem in trouble in their 71-61 game that was not nearly as close as the 10 point win would indicate. Marquette led 29-16 at the half and continued to hold off Miami throughout the second half which had a lot of free throw attempts for both teams. Jamil Wilson led Marquette with 16 points. Junior Vander Blue scored 6 of his 14 points in an early 10-1 run that out Marquette up 14-5 and the game was never again close. Miami was known for its defense, holding teams to 39% shooting. That was not the case against this deep and athletic Marquette team who shot a blistering 54%.
Syracuse went into its matchup with number 1 seed Indiana as 5-6 point underdogs. The seed made sense considering Indiana has been playing extremely well and Syracuse has been inconsistent in the regular season. However in this matchup of the shooters from Indiana vs. the zone of Syracuse it was never close. Syracuse did what many thought they could not which was close out on the shooters while also accounting for big man Cody Zeller on the inside. They forced Indiana into 19 turnovers and blocked 10 shots in the 61-50 win. Michael Carter-Williams had a tremendous all-around game with 23 points, which came in a variety of ways, and 6 rebounds. Backcourt mate Brandon Triche had 14 points and a great all around floor game. The team looked lost when he took a brief rest in the first half. C. J Far was his usual versatile self, scoring 11 points while grabbing 9 boards. Zeller was held to 10 points and may have done some damage to his NBA stock with a forgetful performance.
Syracuse had 5 players play over 31 minutes in their win over Indiana and only played 8 overall with none of the others getting more than 9 minutes. Marquette had 3 guys play at least 30 minutes, two guys in the 20’s, and 10 players played overall. Marquette is the deeper team and has had the advantage of seeing the Syracuse zone earlier this month. Syracuse is incredibly hot and if they can avoid fouls and injury they show no signs of slowing down. The game will come down to pace. Syracuse is happy to walk to ball up the court while Marquette wants to push.
Marquette has superior depth and strength. Syracuse is the better shooting team and their zone has never looked better. In the end Syracuse is going to prove to be too tough and Coach Boeheim is going to get to stay in the Big East for another week.
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