Four square: Scouting the last 4 teams standing

first_img Published on April 3, 2013 at 2:59 am Related Stories Last time they played: Joseph leads Syracuse to victory over Michigan in Legends ClassicBoeheim, Beilein rekindle CNY history in Final FourMichigan coach Beilein searches for 1st-career win against Syracuse, Boeheim’s complex zone MichiganKey player: Trey BurkeThe biggest knock on Big Ten teams is that they often lack an elite scorer, which is part of the reason why none have won the title since Michigan State in 2000. Burke provides Michigan one and then some, averaging 18.8 points per game. He single-handedly dragged Michigan back against Kansas, but Saturday, his most important task may be limiting Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams to the perimeter.Stat to know: 38.5 percentMichigan’s success rate from 3-point range. No team has SU’s combination of length and athleticism, but the most surefire way to beat the zone is to shoot 3s and not miss them.Stat to ignore: 9Number of UM players who have played in 30 games or more this season. In reality, only about six play in crunch-time minutes. The Wolverines aren’t any deeper than the Orange.X-factor: Mitch McGaryMichigan’s big man has the size advantage on Baye Moussa Keita and figures to limit the Syracuse centers offensively, including Rakeem Christmas. But if he can produce in his own right on the other end, Michigan won’t be so dangerously dependent on the deep ball.Boeheim: “Michigan’s a tremendous team. They have really, really good athletes that can really shoot the ball. They were a top-10 team all year and their center wasn’t ready yet.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLouisvilleKey player: Peyton SivaSiva doesn’t have to put up crazy numbers for the Cardinals to win. If he simply limits turnovers and gets Louisville out in transition, the Cardinals beat Wichita State and probably whomever they would face in the final, too. His speed alone creates a nightmarish cycle of steals and subsequent points that allow the Cardinals to set up their press and do it all again.Stat to know: +4UofL’s turnover margin in its 22-point win over Duke in the Elite Eight. On Nov. 24, the Cardinals lost to the same team, but turned the ball over 15 times, once more than Duke.Stat to ignore: 12.6Louisville turnovers per game. The Cardinals play on the run and create so many extra possessions for themselves with 10.9 steals per game that transition turnovers can usually be neutralized.X-factor: Russ SmithIt’s almost silly to list him as an X-factor, but if he shoots well in half-court sets and the secondary break, the Cardinals are nearly unbeatable.Boeheim: “Louisville is as close as there is to a dominant team. They’ve lost some games. They haven’t shown much weakness lately. They’re clearly the best team right now heading into this tournament.”Wichita StateKey player: Cleanthony EarlyEarly is the Shockers’ leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game and accounting for about 20 percent of Wichita State’s total points this season. His greatest value for the Cinderella squad, though, is on the glass. There, he helps compensate for his team’s overall lack of size, chipping in with 5.3 rebounds per game. His boards will be especially needed against No. 1 overall-seed Louisville in the first semifinal.Stat to know: 4-0WSU’s record in the first half of the tournament games this year. The Shockers have yet to trail at the break and can’t start now. No team remaining is easy to come back on. Louisville may be the hardest.Stat to ignore: 7-5The Shockers’ record on the road suggests they don’t travel well. They’re in the Final Four, though, and flying just fine.X-factor: ReboundsIf the Cardinals get and finish second chances, Rick Pitino can get his players into their nerve-shattering press. Wichita State needs to keep UofL out of a defensive rhythm to have a prayer. Just ask second-seeded Duke, which got outrebounded 37-31 and blown out 85-63 in the Elite Eight.Boeheim: “There’s four teams that can get there and there’s four teams that can win. I really believe the Wichita team can win.”SyracuseKey Player: Michael Carter-WilliamsHe was the East Region’s Most Outstanding Player with good reason. The passing ability he’s shown nearly all season long is being coupled with a fearless willingness to get to the basket. He’s established himself as a true leader on this team alongside Brandon Triche, and as a 6-foot-6 point guard, he remains a headache-inducing matchup for opposing swingmen and coaches.Stat to know: 28.9Opponents’ field-goal percentage in the tournament so far. This zone extends as far as any, and even the nation’s sharpest shooters can’t get used to 6-foot-8 frames defending the perimeter.Stat to ignore: 3.94Minutes per point for Rakeem Christmas in the tournament. He doesn’t play enough to make this count, and is almost exclusively a defensive force at this point in the season.X-Factor: James SoutherlandThe rangy forward is due. He’s been more than solid throughout the tournament, but hasn’t had one of his periodic explosions from beyond the arc since the Big East tournament. If he finds that kind of rhythm again SU is too dangerous.Boeheim: “There’s all this obsession about the zone. We’ve been playing it for 15 years now, so I don’t know, 20 years. I don’t know what’s – people are acting like this is something new. It’s nothing new. It’s just what we do and we work at it.”— Compiled by The Daily Orange Sports staff, [email protected] Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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