Syracuse plays North Carolina in the National Semifinal on Saturday evening. In preparation for the game, columnists Jeff Irvine and Steve Auger break down the game and give us their opinions. Yesterday, columnists Matt Goodman and Jim Stechschulte did the same.
As Malachi Richardson harnessed his best Wyatt Earp, and the Virginia Cavaliers were once again reminded that March is a cruel mistress, I came to the realization that I just might be one of those guys who Jim Boeheim says knows nothing about anything. Thanks in large part to this gem. With four wins in the books, Syracuse now turns its attention to the Tar Heels. The only thing that really separates these two squads is size and depth; North Carolina has more of both.
But the 2-3 zone is doing what it does and the rebounding numbers in the previous two games between these schools (both NC wins) favored the Heels by only four, 73-69. Syracuse will need Tyler Roberson to continue his rebounding dominance (almost 12 RPG in the tournament) to help negate Carolina’s size along with getting a couple of shooters hot from beyond the arc. In a season that has made very little sense, 10-seed Syracuse will continue to defy the odds and live to see Monday night. Syracuse 77 North Carolina 72.
Since I was the most optimistic of the Juice staff going into the Tournament and that turned out pretty well — although I did have Syracuse losing in the Elite Eight in my first picks — I’ll play the optimist card once again. The third time will indeed be the charm for Syracuse against North Carolina. Jim Boeheim has had Roy Williams’ number when it comes to meeting in the Final Four (although just barely), and the old wizard from Lyons will pull of another miracle. The Orange actually played the Tar Heels closely in both games this season. Ultimately, Carolina’s size won the day.
But this time around, with the zone playing the best it has all season and Roberson cleaning up the boards, Syracuse will ride the hot hands of Gbinije, Richardson, and Lydon into the final. In the final, Syracuse will meet Oklahoma and Buddy Hield (after they dispatch Villanova surprisingly easily). Hield may be the best player in the Final Four, but if there is one thing Boeheim’s defense has excelled at it’s taking away the other team’s biggest threat.
Hield will hit his share of 3s but it will come at the price of efficiency. Gbinije will take home Final Four MVP honors by leading the Orange offense (and being particularly motivated in the dual with Hield). Syracuse will win Boeheim’s second National Championship and ultimately return a core that will contend again next season.