Final Four Primer

This week has been one of the craziest of my life. In the past 36 hours alone I've driven from Kansas to Texas with a pitstop for Spurs/Thunder in OKC, met my new PD, seen my new station, spent an entire day looking for apartments and slept for maybe 3.5 hours. For those that know my sleep schedule, I don't do 3.5 hours of sleep! I'm happy to finally have a minute to write though and with not much time left to do this before the games tomorrow night, here's your Final Four primer.

How'd they get here?

Syracuse
  • The Orange got embarrassed and bruised egos propelled Cuse all the way to Atlanta. SU was horrible down the stretch culminating with a blowout loss at Georgetown. This team doesn't have fantastic leadership but it has top flight talent and top flight talent comes with egos. A bruised ego is a hell of a motivating factor and the Cuse turned around their offensive slump thanks to hot shooting from James Southerland, attacking aggression from Brandon Triche and good decision making from Michael Carter-Williams. The defense never really left despite the losses but it's gotten even better in the tournament. The Orange have forced more turnovers than field goals allowed. That's my favorite stat of 2013 and it's not even close.
Michigan
  • Point guard Trey Burke has been sensational all year and now he's getting help from freshman Mitch McGary inside making the Wolverines almost impossible to guard. Michigan has run a ton of pick-and-roll in this tournament though and you can't really do that against a zone. That Burke/McGary pick-and-roll has opened up the shooters and with all five starts capable of scoring, Michigan's the most potent offensive team in the tournament.
Wichita State
  • Timing is everything and Wichita State picked it's game with #1 Gonzaga in the round of 32 to have it's best shooting stretch of the year from deep. They basically didn't miss from 3 in the second half including some prayers late in the shot clock and there's nothing the Zags could do. They play their game which is in the half-court with nasty defense and it's worked like a charm.

Louisville
  • Louisville has gotten here by obliterating people. The only "close" game was the regional final against Duke. The Blue Devils played it close for a half before the Ville did exactly what they did to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament final and turned up the heat. They've gotten exceptional guard play and Gorgui Dieng has held down the fort inside. We've said all year there is no dominant team, but for the last month Louisville has been just that. 

Keys to the games

Louisville vs Wichita St

This game is all about pace. If the Cardinals can speed Wichita State up, the Shockers don't stand a chance. WSU needs to make this a lower numbered possessions game and hope that Louisville's guard throw away one too many. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith have been almost unbelievably good this tournament, yet their larger body of work provides a blueprint to beat them: turn them over. Both guys can be turnover prone at times and Smith takes some horrific shots that might as well be turnovers.

The key for Wichita State is to make both Smith and Siva into jump shooters and hope each has a bad night. Louisville just needs to play it's game and the Cardinals play Monday night. Turn up the press, get to the rim and create organized chaos that's not so organized for the opponent.

Syracuse vs Michigan

This game is about discipline for Syracuse and managing the moment for Michigan. If SU can continue to challenge everything from the perimeter like they have been through the tournament season, Nik Stauskas won't go 6-6 from three like he did against Florida. Michigan has shooters all over the place so it's important that SU's rotations are on point.

Michigan's offense has been largely predicated on the pick-and-roll with Trey Burke and Mitch McGary over the past 4 games and the result has been huge numbers for both and 4 wins. You can't run a pick-and-roll against a zone though so it'll be interesting to see how John Beilein attacks the 2-3. He certainly has experience doing it from his years at West Virginia. He's 0-9 against Boeheim but never had a player at WVU as good as Burke. If Burke penetrates, everything else breaks down. SU has to hope Burke's lack of size causes him problems against the extreme length of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche.

The last part to Cuse's plan is finishing possessions. McGary's a very good and relentless offensive rebounder and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glen Robinson III are super athletic wings who will crash the glass. The Orange has to rebound as extra possessions for Michigan is a death wish.

The other end of the floor is pretty simple. Triche needs to stay aggressive. Carter-Williams has to be careful against Burke not to get picked and I'd expect a lot of Brandon Triche bringing the ball up the floor. Get into the offense. Attack the rim. Kick out to Southerland and Fair and SU's offense is just fine.

If Michigan, with it's four freshmen starters, can do the things I listed above they'll have a great shot to win. If the moments too big and they force threes, John Beilein will be 0-10 against Jim Boeheim.


Prediction:

My heart says Cuse wins it all, completing the revenge tour Monday night against Lousiville. This would mean in the tournament season, SU beat Georgetown, Marquette and the Cardinals all whom beat SU in the regular season and in Louisville's case for the Big East Championship. My eyes tell me the Cardinals win it all.

If you've seen my bracket, that means Michigan will win. If Wichita State wins I give up forever.