The Michigan Wolverines are matching up with the Syracuse Orange in a thrilling Final Four showdown in Atlanta on Saturday.
This will be a great battle between squads that turned it on at the perfect time and made runs through their regions using two vastly different strategies.
We’re going to see Michigan’s high-powered offense take on a tenacious Syracuse zone defense in the Georgia Dome, so let’s look how the Wolverines can come out ahead.
Stay Efficient and Smart on Offense
U-M can't stray from what brought it to Atlanta, which is an efficient offensive attack executed by players who are capable of scoring a ton of points on anyone.
This squad is averaging a whopping 78.8 points per game during its four 2013 NCAA tournament contests and shooting a lights-out 47 percent from the field in that span.
The Maize and Blue have received major contributions from Trey Burke (23 points and a huge three-pointer in an overtime victory against Kansas in the Sweet 16), Nik Stauskas (22 points against Florida in the Elite Eight), Mitch McGary (21 points against VCU in the round of 32), Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points apiece in the opening game against South Dakota State).
Any one of the starting five is capable of going off, and at least one of these stars must step up against ‘Cuse on Saturday.
Don’t Fear the Zone
Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone has held opponents to just 29 percent field-goal shooting and 15 percent effectiveness on three-point attempts.
The Orange are giving up just over 45 points per game during this tourney, and, so far, the defense has proven unbeatable.
However, Michigan can’t worry about this and only needs to concentrate on executing its offense against the defenders.
Burke is going to have the hardest job against 6’6” guard Michael Carter-Williams, who will be at the top and looking to use his length to force turnovers and bad passes from the Michigan point guard.
If the Big Ten Player of the Year is able to use his quickness and agility to shake MCW, he’ll be able to find teammates open off the pick-and-roll and drive-and-dish.
As long as these youngsters are nailing their shots and occasionally posting up and dropping some shots down low, the Wolverines shouldn’t struggle to score points.
Force Jump Shots
The final key for a Michigan victory is on the defensive end.
Because the Orange are only shooting 44 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from beyond the arc during the 2012-13 campaign, the Wolverines must force their opponents to take shots from a distance.
Which team will win?
‘Cuse loves to park its bigs down low on offense so they can try to grab offensive boards to make up for these missed shots, which is something the Wolverine forwards cannot allow.
Michigan has to play tight interior defense and box out on every possession, which will allow it to keep Syracuse from scoring too many points in this Final Four contest.