At some point in every NCAA tournament, it comes down to two teams that know each other very well, as it is the case with Syracuse and Marquette, two teams from the falling apart Big East, trying to make the final four for the first time in a decade.
The last time these two teams met, on February 25, the Golden Eagles won 74-71 thanks to a big game from Davante Gardner, scoring 26 points. Since then, things have changed a bit. While both teams have won most of their last games (Marquette 8 of their last 9, Syracuse 7 of their last 8), the Orange seem to be the better team heading into the matchup, mostly thanks to Michael Carter-Williams, the 6’6 Sophomore everyone is pretty sure will take his extraordinary athleticism and length to the NBA next season.
Carter-Williams scored 24 points in what was probably his best game of the season as Syracuse beat number one Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen. He also got 4 steals, being the main benefactor of that 2-3 zone Syracuse love to run. Marquette don’t have the three point shooting to stretch the floor, preferring to slice their way through it and pound the ball into the paint through Blue and Gardner.
The ability to create more possessions through offensive rebounding will probably be the key in this game, with Marquette trying to use Jamil Wilson,Trent Lockett and Vander Blue to give them the edge by coming over the top and help Gardner in the middle. The tougher mission will be to keep Syracuse’s big and long lineup, with the ability to use quite a lot of inside rotation off the offensive glass, which made life very difficult for Indiana in the previous round.
The other issue will be 3-point shooting: Syracuse have James Southerland and Brandon Triche to join Carter-Williams and bury the 3. If Marquette can’t keep up with Syracuse’s wings, it’s going to be a very long night for the Golden Eagles, who don’t have the shooters to keep up with Syracuse when they’re on fire.
Prediction – Marquette have the advantage when it comes to in-game coaching, hoping that the winnerism their players have shown so far in the tournament with the earlier clutch wins will show up again against Syracuse, who have only their defense and three-point shooting to rely on, usually not enough for more than 65-68 points in a game. It will take the best of Blue and Wilson, but they’re hot so far in the Big Dance, and should have just about enough to take Marquette into the final four.