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Numerous times this postseason, Jim Boeheim has lauded his team’s defense and said that Syracuse’s offense has been good enough. But good enough might not cut it against a Wolverines team that has averaged 78.5 points per tournament game.
The only way “good enough” will reserve a spot in the championship game is if Syracuse uses its size advantage.
Michael Carter-Williams has been steadily fantastic in wins over Indiana (24 points, five rebounds, four steals) and Marquette (12 points, eight rebounds, six assists). Once again, he’ll have a five-inch height advantage over Trey Burke, and the Orange’s starters are too long for Burke to try and guard anyone else.
But Carter-Williams is typically not a shoot-first guard. When on, the Syracuse offense works because of role players James Southerland and C.J. Fair. Southerland will stretch the floor with his outside shooting (40 percent from three on the season), but Fair will be instrumental in breaking down Michigan’s ever-improving interior defense.
His matchup against Glenn Robinson III will be the Orange’s biggest mismatch. It’s not that Robinson (6’6’’, 210 lbs) is a bad defender, but Fair, at 6’8’’, has size and is a better rebounder than the freshman. Tim Hardaway Jr. will likely draw James Southerland, which is yet another size disadvantage for the Wolverines. The Orange should feed the ball into the paint, force help from McGary and try to bait the freshman into careless fouls.
Even though the Orange have length on the Wolverines, Syracuse’s offense has been extremely inconsistent, but it’s also played much bigger teams (California, Indiana). If Syracuse wins, it will need to pound the ball inside and not settle for outside jumpers, which removes its decided height advantage.