Michigan vs. Syracuse: Complete Preview for 2013 Final Four Game

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Michigan vs. Syracuse: Complete Preview for 2013 Final Four Game
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan takes on Syracuse in the Final Four after upsetting No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 3 seed Florida in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

The Wolverines (30-7, 12-6 Big Ten) easily handled Florida on Sunday, winning 79-59. They shot 46 percent from the field while holding the Gators to 41 percent shooting and forcing 15 turnovers. They went 10-of-19 from long range, led by Nik Stauskas' six three-pointers.

That's what makes the matchup against Syracuse (30-9, 11-7 Big East) all the more intriguing. The Orange have limited opponents to a combined 29 percent shooting in the NCAA tournament this year. That includes holding No. 1 seed Indiana to 50 points on 16-of-48 shooting in the Sweet 16 and No. 3 seed Marquette to 39 points on 12-of-53 shooting in the Elite Eight.

They also have a star in sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who is widely projected to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Here's a look at the Final Four matchup.

 

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

When: Saturday, April 6, at 8:49 p.m. ET

Watch: CBS

Live Stream: NCAA.com

Betting Line: Michigan -2.5 (via VegasInsider.com)

 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Trey Burke's ability to dictate the pace has been huge for Michigan.

Michigan's offense has been firing on all cylinders in this year's tournament, led by sophomore guard Trey Burke. The Wolverines have averaged 78.8 points in four NCAA tournament games while shooting 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.

One thing you must be able to do against Syracuse's zone defense is hit the three-ball. The Wolverines have shown they can do that, particularly Burke, Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. Then again, Indiana was shooting over 40 percent from downtown for the season before going 3-of-15 from beyond the arc in the Elite Eight.

Of course, Michigan's game is predicated on much more than the three-ball. While Indiana featured a freshman point guard in Yogi Ferrell (zero points, four turnovers against Syracuse), Michigan features Burke at point, who is a star in his own right and a potential lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Burke wasn't named the South Regional's most outstanding player on Sunday simply because of his scoring ability; he's racked up a combined 31 assists and six steals in four NCAA tournament games.

There's also the emergence of freshman forward Mitch McGary, who made just his sixth career start against Florida in the Elite Eight. While Syracuse may have had a bit of an edge on the glass before the NCAA tournament began, McGary's rebounding ability changes everything. He has notched a combined 47 rebounds in four NCAA tournament games, including 14 boards against Jeff Withey and Kansas in the Sweet 16.

Syracuse has gotten to where it is in the tournament primarily because of its defense. Perhaps the Orange do the same against the Wolverines as they did against the Hoosiers and the Golden Eagles.

Then again, Michigan shot 46 percent against Florida and 49 percent against Kansas. Florida and Kansas rank sixth and first, respectively, in opponents' field-goal percentage this season, via TeamRankings.com. Syracuse ranks second.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The matchup between Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke should be fun to watch.

Carter-Williams and the rest of the Orange will have to step up on offense against Michigan. Syracuse ranks 123rd in the nation in field-goal percentage this season. The club has been even worse from the field lately, shooting 40.3 percent in their last three games. 

Syracuse does rank 57th in offensive efficiency (points per possession), but a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Orange are a strong offensive rebounding team. That advantage is likely going to be diminished by the emergence of McGary.

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C.J. Fair and James Southerland are Syracuse's most efficient scorers. They are incredibly important to the Orange's success. So is 6'6'' Carter-Williams, whose combination of scoring, size and passing skills can make him a nightmare to guard.

One other thing: The Orange rank 23rd in the country in opponents' turnover rate. Their opponents' turnover rate over their last three games would rank them fourth in the nation over the course of the 2012-13 campaign.

In that sense, Burke must take care of the ball. He had just one turnover against Florida in the Elite Eight, but he had four against Kansas and seven against VCU. Carter-Williams ranked sixth in the country in steals per game (2.73) during the regular season, and he's notched 13 steals in the NCAA tournament.

 

Don't forget to print out your bracket and follow along with the live bracketFollow all the exciting NCAA tournament action with March Madness Live.


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