Marquette vs. Syracuse: Point Guard Battle Will Decide Elite 8 Clash

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 29, 2013

Feb 25, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Syracuse Orange guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.  Marquette won 74-71.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

For the final time, Marquette and Syracuse will clash as Big East foes. After seven days of action, they will meet to do battle in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

When it comes to which team ends up in the Final Four, that fate will be decided by point guard play.

Syracuse has reached the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. It reached that plateau with a 61-50 victory over Indiana, which marked the Hoosiers' lowest scoring total of the season.

Syracuse's string of dominance over Indiana continues.

Syracuse advances to Elite 8 with win, has won 4 straight meetings vs Indiana since losing the 1987 national championship game

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 29, 2013


Marquette reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003. In three of the past four seasons that it has reached that plateau, Marquette has gone on to the Final Four.

With a dominant 71-61 win over Miami, it has set the stage for one final Big East battle—one that will be decided by the point guards.


Profiling Junior Cadougan

Arguably the the least-known point guard remaining in the 2013 NCAA tournament is Marquette floor general Junior Cadougan. With that being said, Cadougan is the type of performer whose efforts range far beyond a stat sheet.

Cadougan is a physical defender with crafty ball-handling abilities and an uncanny ability to split the full court press.

These are the traits that make Cadougan such an intriguing matchup, as his physicality often takes finesse players out of their rhythm. Although his stat sheet remains underwhelming, Cadougan is one of the most methodical players in the tournament.

Those traits match up well against Michael Carter-Williams.


Profiling Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams is one of the most dynamic point guards in the nation. Not only does he possess extraordinary size at 6'5", but Carter-Williams is an elite defender for his position and a top-tier facilitator.

Even as a 27.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Carter-Williams has managed to become a high-quality contributor.

Carter-Williams paces Syracuse's offense through victory or defeat. He proved capable of taking over as a scorer against Indiana, when he scored 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field.

If Marquette allows Carter-Williams to get out in transition, he will make it pay.


Breaking Down the Matchup

In terms of individual ability, Michael Carter-Williams is a more well-rounded and productive player than Junior Cadougan. Not only can he facilitate at an elite level, but Carter-Williams is a rangy defender with quick hands.

With that being said, Cadougan is the perfect player to destroy Carter-Williams' confidence.

If there's one thing we need to know about Carter-Williams, it's that he struggles when playing against physical defenders. This often disables his ability to penetrate off of the dribble, as the weak-bodied Carter-Williams struggles to hit angles against physicality.

Seeing as Carter-Williams has proven to be a minimal threat as a jump shooter, Cadougan should thrive in pressing up against him. The proof is in what we've already seen.

When the two sides met on Feb. 25, Carter-Williams shot 6-of-14 from the floor, 2-of-6 from beyond the arc and committed four turnovers. Marquette won 74-71.

Cadougan tallied 12 points and picked up four steals.

With that being said, Carter-Williams holds a significant size advantage over the 6'1" Cadougan. While the strength advantage is in Cadougan's favor, Carter-Williams should be able to go over the top to facilitate.

Cadougan's physicality will take Carter-Williams out of his comfort zone, but if this is based on talent, Syracuse holds the slight edge—whoever capitalizes on these advantages will win.