To think, just a month or so ago some of you would say that is article would never be written, but here I am, and here you are, and the Michigan Wolverines are in the Final Four for the first time since 1993.
They will take on fellow fourth-seeded Syracuse for a shot to go to the national title game on Monday night. Jim Boeheim and his team struggled towards the middle part of the season, much like Michigan did, yet these two teams got hot when it mattered most and are now among the elite in the country this year.
Why is Syracuse here?
The answer to that is simple: defense. The Orange have stifled teams on that side of the floor and it has led them to a somewhat easy road to the Final Four. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams has been nothing short of spectacular in this tournament.
Why is Michigan here?
Michigan is here because of their renewed success at the defensive end of the floor, spearheaded by the play of Mitch McGary, who has arguably been the most dominant player in the tournament. The Wolverines have reverted back to their form from earlier this year where everybody is involved and they are running teams right off of the court.
Speaking of McGary, he is the absolute key to tonight’s game. Syracuse’s big men are very athletic, but no where near as physical. If he is able to push these guys around, it will be a long night for the Orange.
Match-up of the Game
Trey Burke vs. Michael Carter-Williams: Carter-Williams has a definite size and length advantage over Burke and could give him fits on both ends of the floor. This is the game where Burke has to be a distributor and pick his spots to attack. He has done a fine job of this throughout the tournament, but he hasn’t quite faced the kind of player that Syracuse will match him up against tonight. Keep an eye out on this battle.
The team as a whole will have to convert on their open shots. Syracuse is holding teams to 12-of-94 from the perimeter during the tournament. Michigan loves to let it go from out there, so they will have to drain these open looks if they are to win.
I’m looking for an aggressive Tim Hardaway, Jr and a Glenn Robinson III who will both have to convert their opportunities tonight. These guys have found their groove during the tournament and their NBA stock is climbing, along with Burke’s. Now is the time to prove that praise is warranted.
Syracuse’s Brandon Triche believes that his team has a substantial advantage at every position. I’m glad he feels that way. Michigan plays much better when they feel as if they are being disrespected. Triche could be sorry for that statement come tonight.
Something else worth noting is that John Beliein is 0-9 career against Jim Boeheim and the Orange.
I said before the tournament that this was about as far as I saw the Wolverines advancing, but expectations have changed. Yes, they will hang a Final Four banner in Crisler next season, and yes, they hung a Big Ten title banner last year, and that’s nice. But Michigan right now is the most talented and playing the most impressive basketball, aside from Louisville maybe, as any team in the tournament. This team can win it all, but it starts tonight. I think they pull it off.
Prediction: Michigan 73, Syracuse 67
The game will tip off at approximately 8:49pm on CBS from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.