It’s a special occasion for Syracuse. Coach Jim Boeheim and team are headed to the Final Four on the tenth anniversary of the school’s first and only NCAA Championship win back in 2003. The Syracuse Orange will face the Michigan Wolverines this Saturday at the Georgia Dome. Will history repeat itself? Only time will tell. Here’s a quick look at Syracuse’s strengths headed into the Final Four. Let’s see if the Orange can celebrate an anniversary, with a victory:
Experienced Coaching Staff
Coach Jim Boeheim is no stranger to the NCAA tournament. He’s led the Orange to 27 tournament appearances reaching Final Four status in 1987, 1996, and 2003 where the team went on to win the championship title. This will be his fourth visit to the Final Four. He’s been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Boeheim knows how to keep his team focused on the fundamentals. Fans can expect the same Boeheim tried and true strategies, and level-headed coaching consistent with regular season games. It’s his kind of steady leadership that can keep a team focused during the most crucial seconds of a tournament game. Reportedly making around $1.2 million a year according to Bracketwars, Boeheim proves to be worth his weight in gold. Plus, Boeheim is undefeated in contests against Michigan Wolverines coach John Beilein. He holds a winning 9-0 record, beating Beilein at Richmond, West Virginia and at Michigan.
Bulletproof Zone Defense
The Syracuse defense strategy is time-tested, and improving with age. Coach Jim Boeheim has been running various forms of a zone defense since he joined Syracuse more than 30 years ago. It was the zone that propelled the team through the 2003 tournament to a championship win. Today, the team runs a highly effective 2-3 zone that has proven to paralyze. At the top of the arc, 6 foot 6 Michael-Carter Williams and 6 foot 4 Brandon Triche use their width to virtually shut down the possibility of chest passes to the middle. Towering height and expansive width leaves opponents with little option but to hurl long shots from far beyond the three point line. Michigan can again expect the zone to be out in full force. The Wolverwines will need to be nimble, and will need to bounce pass if they have any hope of getting towards the goal without obstruction.
Seasoned Top Talent
The Orange clearly have experience on their side, both on the coaches bench and on the court. The majority upperclassmen starting lineup includes senior guard Brandon Triche, junior forward C.J. Fair, senior forward James Southerland, sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams, and sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas. Freshman forward Jerami Grant is the sole young talent with frequent play. A team with this much play time together operates like a well-oiled machine, evident from the first tournament games where they held opponents to low scoring limits. Michigan will practically have to break the bonds of brotherhood to get past this group.
It’s been two seasons since Syracuse and Michigan last met on the court. But when they did, Syracuse came out on top. A superstitious person might say that this year for Syracuse, a win is clearly in the cards.