NCAA Hoops Final Four Picks: #4 Michigan Wolverines vs #4 Syracuse Orange

2013 NCAA Tournament – National Semifinals
#4 Michigan Wolverines vs #4 Syracuse Orange
Saturday, April 6, 2013, 8:49 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
Opening Line: Pick
Current Line: Michigan -2
Opening Total: 131
Current Total: 131
Opening Money Line: Syracuse -110 / Michigan -110
Current Money Line: Michigan -135 / Syracuse +115


Michigan is a slight favorite over Syracuse in the Final Four in Atlanta Saturday.
Michigan is a slight favorite over Syracuse in the Final Four in Atlanta Saturday.

Both the 30-9 Syracuse Orange and 30-7 Michigan Wolverines return to the Final Four after long absences. Michigan has’t been to the Final F0ur since the Fab Five lost to North Carolina in 1993 in the infamous Chris Webber timeout game, where he called a timeout late in the game that Michigan didn’t have. He was assessed a technical foul that essentially ended any chance for a Michigan win. Syracuse hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2003 when freshman Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to to coach Jim Boeheim’s only national championship. Boeheim becomes the fourth coach to lead teams in four different decades to the Final Four. The winner of Michigan and Syracuse will face either #1 seed Louisville or upstart #9 Wichita St in the national championship game Monday.

This is the 14th meeting all-time between Michigan and Syracuse. The Orange lead the series 8-5 and won the last meeting between the schools in the 2010 Legends Classic tournament. The two schools have never met in the NCAA tournament before. Michigan coach John Beilein is 0-9 in his career against Syracuse, dating back to when he was the head coach at Richmond and West Virginia.

The Syracuse Orange looked to be a one seed in the NCAA tournament at the end of February. However, the Orange lost 4 of 5 games to close out the regular season. The Orange ended up tied for 5th in the Big East with  Notre Dame with 11-7 records. The Orange did rebound with 3 straight wins in the Big East tournament before losing to Louisville in the Championship game 78-61.

In the NCAA tournament the #4 seeded Orange destroyed #13 Montana 81-34 in the second round in the East region. It was the largest blowout by a team seeded #3 or lower in the history of the NCAA tournament. Syracuse beat #12 seed California 66-60 in San Jose in the third round. Despite being a 12 seed Cal was rewarded with a virtual home game just 40 miles from their campus. Both teams shot under 40% in an ugly offensive game.

Syracuse stymied #1 Indiana 61-50 in the regional semifinals in Washington DC. The Hoosiers had no answer for the vaunted zone defense of Syracuse. Indiana shot just 33.3% from the field. The #3 seed Marquette Golden Eagles also had no answer for the zone as the Orange beat them 55-39 in the East Regional Final last Saturday. Marquette shot just 22.6% from the field, including a dreadful 3/24 from 3 point range. It tied a record for the fewest points scored in a regional championship game. Syracuse is making their fifth ever appearance in the Final Four.

The Michigan Wolverines finished 12-6 in the Big Ten, widely considered to be the best conference in the country. The Wolverines tied for fourth with Wisconsin behind 14-4 Indiana and 13-5 Ohio St & Michigan St. The Wolverines were seeded fifth in the Big Tournament and lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in the quarterfinals.

The Wolverines were the #4 seed in the South Region. They beat #13 seed South Dakota St 71-56 in the second round in nearby Auburn Hills, Michigan. Michigan took a narrow 30-26 into halftime. The Wolverines pulled away in the second half. Michigan took the 71-56 win to advance to the third round. In the third round, Michigan crushed #5 Virginia Commonwealth 78-53. Many thought the Rams could pull off the upset thanks to their pressure defense. However VCU was never in the game.

Michigan played #1 Kansas in the South regional semifinals in Arlington, Texas. Kansas was up 68-54 with just under 7 minutes to go, and looked well on their way to returning to the elite 8. However, Michigan forced overtime with a 22-8 run to end regulation. Kansas looked like they were going to hold on for the win when they took a 5 point lead with 21 seconds left. However, Michigan tied it up thanks to a 3 pointer from national player of the year guard Trey Burke with 5 seconds left. In overtime, the lead changed hands 5 times. Michigan was up 87-85 with 47 seconds left. Kansas center Jeff Withey blocked a layup from Burke with 13 seconds left. Forward Elijah Johnson seemingly had a clear path to the basket for a potential game tying lay-up but he passed it off at the last minute to teammate Naadir Tharpe, who missed a long 3 at the buzzer. The Wolverines advanced to the elite 8 for the first time since 1994 in the first overtime game of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

In the South Regional Final last Sunday, Michigan crushed #3 seed Florida 79-59. The Wolverines shot 46.2% from the field and held the Gators to 2/10 shooting from 3 point range. The Wolverines also forced 15 Gator turnovers. The win allowed Michigan to return to the Final Four for the seventh time in program history. It also set up the first ever meeting between two #4 seeds in tournament history.

The Orange have losses to Temple in Madison Square Garden, at Villanova, at Pittsburgh, at Connecticut, Georgetown twice, Louisville twice, and Marquette. The Georgetown loss snapped a 38 game home winning streak for Syracuse. The Orange have key wins over San Diego St on an aircraft carrier, Princeton, at Arkansas, Eastern Michigan Long Beach St, and Detroit. In conference Syracuse has home wins over Rutgers, Villanova, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, St. John’s, and Providence, along with road wins at South Florida, Providence,   Louisville, and Seton Hall. The Orange are 20-15 ATS and the total is 15-18 this season.

Syracuse is outscoring teams 71-59 this season. The Orange are #21 in points allowed.  Syracuse is shooting 44% from the field and 33.7% from 3 point range. The Orange make 67.5% of their free throws. Syracuse averages 38.5 rebounds per game and allows 30.6 to opponents. Syracuse is #24 in rebounding nationally. Orange opponents are shooting 36.8% from the field and 28.3% from 3 point range. Syracuse is #3 nationally in both categories. The Orange average 14 assists, 9 steals, 6 blocks and 12 turnovers a game.

Forward C.J. Fair averages 14.3 points, 7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks a game. Guard Brandon Triche averages 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Forward James Southerland averages 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game. He missed  6 games due to being ineligible. Guard Michael Carter-Williams averages 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 2.8 steals a game. He is probable with an ankle injury.  Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman, Trevor Cooney, Baye Keita and Jerami Grant make up the rest of the rotation.

Michigan has losses at Ohio St, Indiana twice, Wisconsin twice, Michigan St, and Penn State.  All of the Wolverine losses came to the 4 other conference leaders except for last place Penn State. Michigan has key home wins over Cleveland State, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Western, Central, and Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue twice, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St, Illinois and Michigan St, . The Wolverines also have wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas St in a tournament in New York City, West Virginia in Brooklyn, and at Bradley, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois. Michigan is 18-16-1 ATS this season and total is 21-14 this season.

Michigan is outscoring teams 76-63 this season. The Wolverines are #23 in scoring. Michigan is shooting 48.5% from the field and 38.5% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are in the top 20 nationally in both categories. Michigan makes 70.5% from the free throw line. Michigan averages 35.2 rebounds per game and gives up 29.7 per game. Michigan opponents are shooting 42.3% from the field and 32.3% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are averaging 14 assists, 6 steals, 3 blocks and 9 turnovers.

Michigan guards Trey Burke averages 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. He won both the Wooden award and AP player of the year. Guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. averages 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Guard Nik Stauskas averages 11.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Forward Glenn Robinson III averages 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. Forward Mitch McGary averages 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks a game to lead the team. Forward Jordan Morgan averages 5 points and 4.5 rebounds.  Caris LaVert and Jon Horford also get significant minutes.

Syracuse is 9-3 ATS in non-conference games, 5-2 ATS against teams with winning records, overall, and in neutral site games, and 1-5 in Saturday games.

Michigan is 4-0 ATS in NCAA tournament games, in non-conference games, against teams with winning records, overall, and in neutral site games, 4-1 against Big East teams, and 2-7 in Saturday games.

The key to beating the zone defense is to have guards that can penetrate, and shooters who can make some threes. Michigan has both of those. The Syracuse zone defense has been nearly impossible to score against in four games so far, holding each opponent to 60 points and under, and Montana and Marquette under 40 points. The Wolverines have been on point defensively as well in the tournament. Michigan has shredded some good defensive teams as well to get to the Final Four. I think Michigan figures out the zone and wins. Syracuse also struggles to score sometimes as they did late in the season.



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