This week, Clemson freshman, Ryan Hall, is making his first appearance writing for Garnet Report. After many years of devoted fanhood to NCAA Men’s Basketball, Ryan has provided his own personal insider analysis into the Final Four of the tournament. Although this guy may be a Tiger, he is one of the few that knows a thing or two about sports. Be on the lookout for more of Ryan’s work to come.
By Ryan Hall
The Syracuse Orange entered the NCAA Tournament with a lot of momentum after making a Big East Championship Final run. That continued into the second weekend as Syracuse downed number one seed Indiana 61-50 in the sweet 16, then three-seed Marquette 55-39 in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning the national title in 2003. After several disappointing tournament runs since 2003, Syracuse finally made it to the final four, carried by intense defensive effort.
Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 defensive zone held Indiana, a team ranked third in the nation in points per game to 50 points, and held Marquette to 30 points below their season average of 69. Although Syracuse certainly didn’t light the scoreboard up over the weekend, they did score enough to make it to the next weekend of play. Syracuse were led offensively by Michael Carter-Williams’ 24-point game against -Indiana and his 12-point, eight-rebound effort against Marquette.
The Shockers turned out to be the shock of the tournament in 2013. After beating number one seed Gonzaga last weekend, Wichita State kept on rolling by beating another tournament darling La Salle, 72-58 in the Sweet 16, then number two seed Ohio State 70-66 in the Elite Eight. Want to know the last time a MVC team made the final four? That would be Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979. There were questions about whether or not Wichita State should have even made the tournament, but now any and all doubters have been silenced. Wichita State controlled nearly the entire game against La Salle, and were led by Jerrell Wright and Tyrone Garland’s 16 points each.
After winning the battle of tournament darlings in the Sweet 16, very few people expected Wichita State to knock off Big Ten Tournament champ Ohio State, who were riding an 11 game winning streak. A balanced scoring effort for Wichita State, with six players scoring more than eight points–and none over 14–helped lead the Shockers over Ohio State. Although Wichita State could not slow down Deshaun Thomas, who scored 23 points, they did hold Aaron Craft to nine points on 2-12 shooting.
Michigan was fortunate to escape against Kansas in the Sweet 16, but won with a convincing performance over Florida in the Elite Eight to advance to it’s first Final Four since 1993 when with the “Fab Five.” Michigan beat Kansas 87-85 in overtime in the Sweet 16, though the Wolverines were down by as many as 14 points with seven minutes left, and by five with 21 seconds left. Michigan fought back tremendously to get the game back into striking distance, catching a break when Elijah Johnson missed a free throw with 4.2 seconds left. If it had gone in, Kansas would have clinched the game. Instead, he missed the free throw and Trey Burke hit an insanely deep three-point shot to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, there were five lead changes, but the Wolverines prevailed. Mitch McGary, who was highly recruited out of high school and only averaged roughly seven points and six rebounds per game on the season, had a monster game against Kansas, scoring 25 points and recording 14 rebounds. Trey Burke also had a monster game with 23 points and 10 assists. In the Elite Eight game against Florida, Michigan jumped ahead with a 13-0 run and cruised from there, ending the game at 79-59. Nik Stauskas led the way for Michigan with 22 points. Michigan will now take on Syracuse in the Final Four.
Louisville was awarded the number one overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and they certainly showed their worth by dismantling Oregon 77-69 in the Sweet 16, then number two seed Duke 85-63 in the Elite Eight to advance to their second straight Final Four. The Cardinals were led by Russ Smith, who scored 31 points against Oregon and 23 against Duke. Smith now has 104 points in four NCAA Tournament games, with an average of 26 points per game.
Louisville was in charge the whole way against Oregon, leading 66-48 with nine minutes left. Oregon cut the lead to 70-64 at one point, but Louisville took over from there to advance to the Elite Eight.
After a tight first half between Duke and Louisville, it looked like it was going to be the close slugfest we all wanted to see, but Louisville outscored Duke 50-31 in the second half to blow the game wide open. Dieng, who did not play in the first matchup between Duke and Louisville earlier this season, came up strong with 14 points and 11 rebounds. After losing to Kentucky last year in the Final Four, Louisville should be the favorite to win it all, as they ride a 14-game winning streak into Atlanta. They will take on Wichita State in the Final Four.
Photo Credit: BleacherReport SI.com WCPO.com