Trey Burke and the Michigan Wolverines have an incredible challenge in the 2013 Final Four vs. the Syracuse Orange.
With a defense that has allowed an average of 45.75 points in the NCAA Tournament, coach Jim Boeheim's squad definitely possesses the capability to slow Michigan down. That said, Michigan has proven to get past strong defensive units in VCU, Kansas and Florida.
And a victory on Saturday would not be surprising given Michigan's tenacity since March Madness began.
What happens to the Michigan-Syracuse winner?
Get Ahead of the Zone
Syracuse's size is an extreme advantage in this contest. We saw the length completely baffle the Indiana Hoosiers, so how can Michigan avoid this situation?
Simple, get out in front and run.
Transition is key here, because the Wolverines have the skill to push the tempo and must do so. After any rebound or turnover, Michigan must get down the floor and get Syracuse on its heels to prevent the Orange from getting into their zone looks.
The Wolverines have already faced opponents that consistently challenge shots and generate turnovers, so adjusting to Syracuse won't be too drastic. It's just a matter of beating the Orange to the bucket every time a transition opportunity arises.
Match Syracuse on the Boards
Establishing an interior presence against the bigs of Syracuse will be difficult for Michigan.
Again, the Orange's size becomes a major factor. They average 38.7 rebounds per game while allowing a mere 36.8 opposing shooting percentage (ranks No. 2). The Wolverines aren't going to find a lot of clean looks at the rim, so getting physical inside is required to win the battle on the boards.
Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III must crash the glass and do so consistently, otherwise Syracuse's incredible depth will take over. Otherwise, C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita will force ill-advised attempts and grab boards at a solid rate.
Michigan must attack the glass early and often, otherwise Syracuse will be able to dictate tempo and swing the game in its favor.
Attack in the Half Court
Regardless of how many times Michigan takes advantage of transition opportunities, there will be situations when it must score in the half court.
Syracuse's zone is undeniably dominant, as it has paved the way to this Final Four matchup. But instead of working the perimeter, Michigan must attack when the defense tightens up.
Marquette attempted 24 three-pointers versus the 'Cuse, which wasn't typically its game. And although the Wolverines certainly shoot better from downtown, they must operate from the elbow and high post to get the best opportunities against Syracuse's smothering defense.
Considering Michigan's team quickness and explosive acceleration, the ability to drive and/or pull up will also draw fouls.
Ultimately, continuing to get the most from each possession will slide Michigan into the title game.
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