As we approach the Final Four of the 2013 NCAA tournament, we've begun to evaluate each and every team remaining. That includes the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals, the No. 4 seeds Syracuse Orange and Michigan Wolverines and the No. 9 Wichita State Shockers.
In order for the Orange to advance to the national championship game, their backcourt must come up with the performance of a lifetime.
Up next for Syracuse is none other than Trey Burke and Michigan. Burke, a Naismith Award finalist, has been nothing short of outstanding during Michigan's run to the Final Four.
That only begins to scratch the surface of why Syracuse's backcourt must step up against the Wolverines.
Fortunately for the Orange, they're fronted by a two lead-guard set of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. Carter-Williams ranked third in the nation in assists per game and Triche is a senior with significant tournament experience.
The question is simple—what will be their biggest hurdles in leading the Orange to the national championship game?
Containing Trey Burke
When it comes to Carter-Williams, this game is about much more than earning an appearance in a title game. Instead, this will be a deciding measure in whether or not MCW is a legitimate NBA point guard.
The reason why is well-established—Carter-Williams is the next best point guard in the upcoming draft class after Michigan's Burke.
With an elite-level performance against Burke, Carter-Williams could go a long way towards pushing himself above Burke on draft boards. With superior size at 6'5", MCW may just push himself back into the top 10 with a dominant outing.
With a dud, however, Carter-Williams will offer fuel to the fire for those concerned with his legitimacy—the pressure is on.
The Syracuse Orange have been playing elite defense by way of the 2-3 zone. Although it struggles in man-to-man sets, Syracuse has masked its deficiencies by setting up the zone and holding opponents to 45.8 points per game during the NCAA tournament.
Michigan just so happens to have the perfect attack for the zone as it runs a small-ball lineup.
The Wolverines will get out in transition and capitalize on their abundance of scoring guards and reliable shooters. That includes Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas.
At power forward, Glenn Robinson III will exploit his athletic advantage as a player capable of playing the 2 or 3.
This calls on the Syracuse backcourt to step up and offset Michigan's transition prowess with disruptive defense. Seeing as Carter-Williams and Triche combine to average 4.1 steals per game, that shouldn't be an issue.
If Carter-Williams and Triche fail to step up in that regard, however, the Orange will be in trouble.
Even when the Wolverines fail to convert in transition, they've proven to be one of the best ball control teams in the country. Their ability to dominate the pace has left opponents in shambles during late-game situations, thus resulting in Burke's recent heroics.
It's on Carter-Williams and Triche to make sure that doesn't happen against Syracuse.