The first half of the Elite Eight weekend began with one very surprising result, as Wichita State didn’t just play better defense than the Buckeyes from Ohio State, but actually beat them to make their first final four in nearly 50 years. In the Big Easy derby between Syracuse and Marquette we saw a basketball game that showed a lot of the problems of the sport, while the Orange were the main benefactors of the ugliness.
That leaves us with two more games before the Final Four is set: Duke playing Louisville in the only #1 vs #2 seeds in the tournament this year, while a #3 vs #4 matchup between Florida and Michigan is just as interesting because of the contrast in styles.
But first, lets review the first two of the quarterfinals, beginning with a game that had a total of 94 points, as the Syracuse defense simply smothered Marquette in a 55-39 win, making their first Final Four since 2003, when Carmelo Anthony led them to the national title as a freshman.
While it’s been proven that College Basketball is simply a different sport than what we see in the NBA, games shouldn’t be this bad, and a 2-3 zone defense shouldn’t keep teams at less than a point per minute, especially when it’s a strong team like the Golden Eagles. They were only 3-24 from beyond the arc, making 22.6% of their field goal attempts. They scored only 7 points in the first 14 minutes of the game, and although Syracuse weren’t that good offensively (they never are), they couldn’t play catch up with a team they’ve beaten this season once before.
Michael-Carter Williams is a fine player, putting up a special 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. Syracuse didn’t even need anyone to get his hand quite hot from the outside, led by James Southerland who missed six of his nine three-point attempts. All they had to do was score once in a while, something Marquette, led by Davante Gardner and Vander Blue, both with 14 points, failed to do.
Wichita State continue to live true to their Shockers name, beating heavily favored Ohio State 70-66 thanks to the underdog’s weapon – three point shooting, hitting 8-20, while doing an excellent work on both Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Craft tried too hard to show he can play offense as well, finishing with 2-12 from the field. Thomas turned the ball over five times, scoring 20 points but on only 40% from the field.
Meanwhile, Wichita State, who haven’t been to the Final Four since the 1960’s and are the first MVC team in that stage since 1979, got the kind of defensive effort they needed from Carl Hall (6 blocks) and Malcolm Armstead. He had an awful offensive game, going 6-21 from the field, but did finish with 14 points, making Aaron Craft’s night a nightmarish one.