ATLANTA (AP) - The Associated Press previews the Michigan vs. Syracuse matchup with details and an overview of what you might expect Saturday night when the two teams square off in the national semifinal.
MICHIGAN (30-7) vs. SYRACUSE (30-9)
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR
Beat No. 13 South Dakota State 71-56; beat No. 5 VCU 78-53; beat No. 1 Kansas 87-85, OT; beat No. 3 Florida 79-59.
Trey Burke, a consensus first-team All-America, was the MOP of the South Regional and that included an incredible performance against top-seeded Kansas in the round of 16. After having five assists and no points in the first half, Burke scored 23 points in the second half and overtime as Michigan overcame a 10-point deficit with 2:20 left. His 30-footer tied the game with 4 seconds left in regulation. He finished with 10 assists for his fourth double-double of the season. He averages 18.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists while shooting 46.4 percent from the field.
John Beilein has the reputation as the coach's coach. He has compiled winning records in 30 of his 35 seasons as a head coach and has never had back-to-back losing years. He has led four schools to the NCAA tournament (Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia) and this is his first Final Four and Michigan's first since 1992. If any coach can handle Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone it will be Beilein.
Michigan is a young team -- there are often four freshmen and Burke on the court -- and having nobody with Final Four experience, including the coach, could be a factor until the nerves settle. The big surprise of the tournament has been freshmen forward Mitch McGary, who is averaging a team-high 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. He had a career-high 25 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas.
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR
Beat No. 13 Montana 81-34; beat No. 12 California 66-60; beat No. 1 Indiana 61-50; beat No. 3 Marquette 55-39.
Even with future NBA players on the roster, Syracuse's star is the 2-3 zone. With its size up top and the length of it on the backline, the zone has turned some teams into offensive messes. It's not just bad shooting (the teams in the NCAA tournament are shooting 28.9 percent from the field and 15.4 percent (14 of 91) from 3-point range) it's the 67 turnovers forced, the 44 steals and 25 blocked shots. The Orange held two teams below 40 points in a game.
Jim Boeheim is second only to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski in wins in Division I (957-920) and this is the fourth team he's taken to the Final Four, advancing to the championship game each of the previous three times and winning it all in 2003. His teams have played the zone defense during a time in college basketball when almost all teams play man-to-man. He played at Syracuse beside Naismith Hall of Famer Dave Bing in the backcourt and has coached at no other school.
The backcourt of Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams are the stars of the zone playing up top and then taking advantage of the turnovers and missed shots for transition baskets. James Southerland is the 3-point specialist (36.8 percent) but the Orange are shooting 36.7 percent from behind the arc. The only drawback to the zone is rebounding and the Orange, despite winning by an average of 20 points, have less than a one-rebound per game advantage.
It's too easy to say this is the offense of Michigan against the zone defense of Syracuse. It's not just Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III are legitimate scorers and freshman Nik Stauskas is shooting 44.9 percent from 3-point range. Syracuse hasn't been stunning anybody with its offense but the zone has had some pretty good players muttering as they left the court.
The zone will have another strong game and Carter-Williams' confidence is rising with each outing. Michigan will get more than 50 points but not a whole lot more: Syracuse 61-53.