Indiana and Syracuse haven't seen each other in the NCAA tournament since 1987. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Keith Smart wasn't coming off the bench to save them in this one.
No. 4 Syracuse's 2-3 zone disrupted the No. 1 Indiana offense all night long, forcing 18 turnovers and making the Hoosiers uncomfortable enough to cruise to a 61-50 win the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Michael Carter-Williams was the star for the Orange and Jim Boeheim's team. MCW had 24 points, five rebounds and four steals in completely dominating Indiana's guards, and his efforts on both ends kept the No. 1 Hoosiers at bay for most of the evening. Carter-Williams was active in passing lanes, and his three three-pointers were daggers when Syracuse needed them the most.
Senior guard Brandon Triche, who has been to four tournaments in a row, finished with 14 points in a very efficient game, while C.J. Fair added 11 to help the Orange move to the Elite Eight for the second straight season.
The big story of this game was Indiana's offense, or lack thereof. Syracuse held the Hoosiers to 33 percent shooting from the field, 20 percent from outside and turned in 12 steals and 10 blocks to completely stifle Tom Crean's team for most of the evening.
Victor Oladipo did everything he could, leading the team in scoring with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. The shooters from Indiana went cold, though, as its zone-killers (Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey) combined to shoot just 7-of-26 from the field.
Cody Zeller, a likely lottery pick before this game, had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
To be frank, Syracuse made Indiana's life miserable all night long. The length and aggressiveness of the Orange was evident from the outset, and a MCW steal from Kevin Farrell set the tone for what was a disappointing performance on a big stage for a team that spent most of the season atop the AP Top 25 poll.
Syracuse moves on to the Elite Eight, where it will face Big East rival and No. 3 seed Marquette on Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
Adam Lefkoe posted this tweet in what would be a sign of things to come for Indiana:
Syracuse jumps out to an 11-3 lead behind shots from Southerland and MCW. For the first time all season, IU seems REALLY small.— Adam Lefkoe (@WHAS11Lefkoe) March 29, 2013
The hate for Zeller's game was there all night—particularly on Twitter. Eric Stangel gets us going with what I like to call the "Cody Zeller Trashing Section:"
John Clay chimed in:
Zeller's stock has to be dropping with every Syracuse blocked shot.— John Clay (@johnclayiv) March 29, 2013
As did former MLB pro Mike Bacsik:
Zeller is Shawn Bradley soft tonight.— Mike Bacsik (@MikeBacsik) March 29, 2013
NFL Network reporter Albert Breer decided to look on the bright side when it comes to Zeller's future:
Bright side for Indiana: Maybe they hang on to Zeller another year because of this.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 29, 2013
And so ends that Twitter reaction within a Twitter reaction section. Back to the other tweets from the game, ESPN's Stats and Information provides us with a huge tell for why Indiana struggled so mightily:
Indiana shot 31.3 percent (5-16 FG) and had 10 turnovers against Syracuse's zone in the first half. Hoosiers shot 53% vs zone in reg season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 29, 2013
If anyone knows how losing to Syracuse in the tournament feels, it's former Texas guard T.J. Ford. He was both complimentary (and likely sick to his stomach) with the Syracuse defense on Thursday night:
Syracuse has control of this game with tempo, pace, aggressive & attitude with swag.. Indiana rhyme totally off. #finalfour2003— TJ Ford (@tj_ford) March 29, 2013
And finally, ESPN's College Basketball Twitter account posts what really sums up this game the best:
Cuse's zone causing Indiana fits.— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 29, 2013
Being hot is everything when it comes to the tournament.
Throw out the Big East loss to Louisville, and Syracuse has won six straight games since scoring a season-low 39 points against Georgetown in an embarrassing loss. Boeheim's guys are confident that the 2-3 is baffling opponents who don't get to see that in conference play, and the senior leadership (Triche and James Southerland) has been outstanding.
Indiana becomes the second No. 1 seed to fall in the tournament.
The Hoosiers join Gonzaga on the chopping block and will enter the offseason with more questions than answers. The biggest one is the impending departure of Zeller, the sophomore post man who will likely be a first-round pick in June.
Which was more surprising?
Zeller and Oladipo (a junior) both have choices to make, while Crean will definitely have to replace Hulls and Watford (seniors) in his lineup next season. It's a disappointing end to the season with Final Four aspirations at Indiana.
Looking ahead, Syracuse now gets a chance to avenge an early conference loss to Marquette. The Golden Eagles looked like the better team in their game against Miami, and the two Big East rivals will meet again with the Final Four and a trip to Atlanta on the line.
It wasn't a game that many expected to be an upset win, but Syracuse took no prisoners and made Indiana uncomfortable all night. The Orange will be a difficult matchup for any team in the next three rounds of March Madness if the defense is clicking like it was on Thursday night.
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