Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has called the Michigan Wolverines one of the best offenses in the country.
Now Boeheim, the Orange, and their 2-3 zone defense face their stiffest test of the tournament as they meet Michigan Saturday night in the Final Four at Atlanta.
A 3-5 run that started in February, including a three game losing streak, led to plenty of detractors doubting Syracuse and its chances in the tournament.
The Orange are no riding a 7-1 tear, with their only loss coming at the hands of No. 1 seed Louisville in the Big East championship.
In the East Region final, Syracuse smothered Marquette 55-39, generating 10 steals, and limiting the Golden Eagles to 12 field goal conversions.
Forward James Southerland led all scorers with 16 points, and point guard Michael Carter-Williams put on a complete, balanced display, with 12 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, along with five steals.
It was the second time during the tournament Syracuse held an opponent to under 40 points, and overall the Orange are letting up 45.8 points per game.
Michigan and their athletic, hot shooting guards led by sophomore Trey Burke look to change that trend.
Burke was named the recipient the John R. Wooden Award this week, given to the most outstanding player in men’s college basketball. For the season Burke has averaged 19.2 points and 6.7 assists, and was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Burke, along with Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. can fire off enough jump shots to break Syracuse’s zone, and freshman forward Mitch McGary has the skill and size to outmuscle the Orange inside.
Stauskas scored 22 points and Burke powered through a rough 5-for-16 shooting display to notch 15 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists with three steals in Michigan’s 79-59 win over Florida in the South Region final.
The Orange are in their first Final Four since they won the national championship with Carmelo Anthony in 2003, while Michigan hasn’t had this long of a run in the tournament since 1993 when Chris Webber called a timeout with none remaining in a loss to North Carolina in the title game.
The game tips-off at 8:49 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch their free live online steam on the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Michigan is favored by 2 points.
Over/Under: 131 points
Prediction: A perfect match-up of offense and defense could swing either way. The Orange will try to slow the game down, and keep McGary off the boards. Michigan will need their jump shots to fall early, and must build an early lead; otherwise it will struggle against the Syracuse zone. Carter-Williams and Burke should battle in the final stretch with Syracuse advancing.
Predicted Score: Syracuse 60, Michigan 55