Syracuse Basketball: Predicting How Each Orange Player Will Fare vs. Michigan
The Syracuse Orange match up with the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night for the right to play in the NCAA title game.
The game presents an interesting matchup, as both schools have had highs and lows this season.
Syracuse is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003. The team has battled through adversity and inconsistent play to make it this far.
The Orange roster contains a lot of length, something that has given many teams problems this season. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams stands 6'6", while everyone who is used in the frontcourt is at least 6'8".
It will be interesting to see how the size of Syracuse matches up with the three-guard lineup that the Wolverines will put on the floor.
Heading into this Final Four matchup, let's take a look at how each member of the Orange might do against the Wolverines.
Michael Carter-Williams is having a wonderful NCAA tournament so far, averaging 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in four games. His performance earned him the title of Most Outstanding Player in the East Region.
The sophomore has shown all season that his length can create problems for opposing point guards.
Against the Wolverines, he'll be going up against Trey Burke, a sophomore who will be giving up six inches in size to the Syracuse guard.
Carter-Williams should be able to use his size against Burke to rack up rebounds and throw passes over the top of the defense to his teammates. He's been playing well as of late and seems determined to lead his team to a national title.
Syracuse doesn't need Carter-Williams to score 20 points a night to be successful, though he led the team with 24 against Indiana. The Orange are successful when he is spreading the ball around and using his ability to drive the lane and create opportunities.
Look for him to get plenty of opportunities against Michigan and also use his defensive ability to force turnovers.
Prediction: 11 Points, 7 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 3 Steals
Brandon Triche has had an up-and-down year for the Orange.
He's had games where he's been the best player on the court, and he's also had games that should be forgotten. For the year, Triche is averaging 13.7 points a game, with a low of two and a high of 29.
He has been a streaky player and is shooting just 41.5 percent from the floor on the season. When he's having an off night, he can really go cold. That was evident in the January 9 win at Providence. Triche scored just four points and shot two-of-10 form the floor, including missing all four of his three-point attempts.
However, he does have intangibles, such as senior leadership and experience, that are important to Syracuse's success.
Though he scored just nine points in the Elite Eight win over Marquette, he did pitch in six rebounds.
As a senior, Triche will want to leave his mark on this team. He should receive less attention from the Michigan defense than guys like Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland, who have both been hot lately.
That means that Triche should find some open looks, and if he's able to knock down a few shots early, look out.
Prediction: 12 Points, 5 Rebounds, 3 Assists
Though he's never been officially given the award, C.J. Fair may be the most valuable player on Syracuse.
His size makes him a force down low, who can rebound in traffic and hit big shots when needed.
Fair leads Syracuse in both scoring and rebounding, scoring 14.3 points a game along with seven rebounds.
The Michigan Wolverines play a smaller lineup, using three guards, but Fair will have his hands full with the frontcourt combination of Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary.
Robinson III is averaging 13.5 points a game and just over six rebounds in the NCAA tournament. McGary has been a major surprise for the Wolverines, scoring 17.5 points a game in four tournament games. He's also been unstoppable on the glass, pulling down a total of 46 rebounds in four games.
Fair could find some tough sledding inside against the Wolverines, especially when it comes to rebounding. His shot is good enough that he should still be able to hit enough baskets to rack up the points.
Look for him to be near the top of the score sheet for the Orange by the end of the game.
Prediction: 16 Points, 6 Rebounds, 2 Blocks
James Southerland has been a pleasant surprise for the Orange this season.
After coming off the bench for most of the season and missing six games due to an academic issue, the senior forward now starts and is a big key to the Orange's success.
Southerland has a great combination of size and skill that makes him difficult to guard. He's shown the ability to be relied on down low, scoring points in the paint and grabbing rebounds.
However, what makes Southerland so dangerous is his ability to step out and knock down shots from long range.
He is shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc for the year and recently set a Big East Tournament record with 17 total three-pointers. The Wolverines rank 93rd in the nation when it comes to defending the three-point shot.
Against a smaller Michigan lineup, he could be in line for a big day. The 6'10" Mitch McGary is now a dominant presence down low, but if Southerland can force him to come out to defend the perimeter, it will create matchup problems for the Wolverines.
Southerland has been playing well lately and there's no reason to think that will end in the Final Four. If he can connect from long range, Syracuse could very well play itself into the championship game.
Prediction: 18 Points, 5 Rebounds, 1 Block
Forward Rakeem Christmas is not looked at as a top scorer at Syracuse, as he averages just 5.1 points a game. However, his value lies in his size and ability to play defense down low.
He pulls down just under five rebounds a game and leads the team with 72 total blocks on the year.
The 6'9" sophomore will likely see a lot of Mitch McGary on Saturday. Christmas' main responsibility will be to control the paint area on defense for the Orange.
Christmas has been a non-factor on the offensive end in the last three games of the tournament, scoring just a total of seven points in those games. However, he does have 14 rebounds in four NCAA tournament games this year.
He's been sharing time with both Baye Keita and Jerami Grant, as Boeheim has been rotating his big men. That trend should continue against the Wolverines, limiting the chances that Christmas may have to score.
Though the offensive numbers won't jump off the page, he's a valuable member of the team who will collect blocks and rebounds.
Prediction: 5 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Blocks
Baye Keita has recently emerged as a key player for the Orange.
After spending much of the year in a purely defensive role, the center from Senegal has started to expand his game. In the postseason he's started to score more, averaging over six points a game. During the regular season he scored just three points a game.
Keita really struggled this year from the foul line, shooting just 60 percent from the stripe. However, he's shot 69 percent from the foul line in his last eight games. That's really helped to make the Orange a dangerous team.
The extra offense has been a nice bonus, but the fact remains that Keita is a defender and a shot-blocker.
He will be used to defend the middle against the Wolverines. His length makes it difficult for opponents to drive the lane.
Against a smaller Michigan lineup, Keita should be able to get some blocks, as he's had seven in the four NCAA tournament games. However, he could struggle though on the offensive end when matched up with Mitch McGary.
Keita is sometime overlooked because he doesn't put up big numbers on the offensive end, but he's an undeniable part of Syracuse's success.
Prediction: 4 Points, 4 Rebounds, 3 Blocks
Freshman Jerami Grant is a 6'8" forward who give Syracuse added size down low.
He mainly comes off the bench in the rotation, but did see his minutes increase midway through the season, as he had to start in place of the injured DaJuan Coleman and the suspended James Southerland.
So far in the tournament, Grant has been a non-factor on offense, scoring just 10 total points. He did collect eight rebounds in the Orange's first game against Montana. That's just one shy of his career high.
Grant's minutes have been inconsistent this postseason, ranging from one to 22.
The flow of the game and the foul situation will probably dictate how much action he sees in the Final Four matchup. Ten minutes of action is a reasonable prediction for the young forward against the Wolverines.
His contribution to the game will come in the form of rebounds.
Prediction: 2 Points, 3 Rebounds
Trevor Cooney is another freshman who's seen his minutes fluctuate during the course of the season.
He's played as many as 26 minutes in a game and as low as just one minute. He averages just over three points for the season.
Cooney has had two decent postseason games for the Orange. On March 15, against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament, the young guard scored 10 points and went four-of-six from behind the arc. In the Orange's first NCAA game against Montana, Cooney recorded seven points.
In the most recent game against Marquette, he saw just eight minutes and committed two turnovers while failing to score.
The game against Michigan is sure to be a close one, as both teams are on hot streaks.
Guard play is going to be important for the Orange, especially matching up with the impressive backcourt of the Wolverines. If Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams find themselves in a battle trying to defend Michigan's three-guard set, Cooney could see his minutes increase in order to give the starters a much-needed rest.
The reality for Cooney is that he's still developing and adjusting to the game at the collegiate level. Though he could see the court a fair amount on Saturday, don't expect big numbers from the freshman.
Prediction: 3 Points, 1 Rebound, 1 Assist