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Before Thursday night, no one envisioned this game happening. After the East region was almost straight chalk through the first couple rounds, the upsets came in full force in the Sweet 16 with the top two seeds going down.
First up, Marquette put a thorough beat down on Miami from the start. In a game not many thought the Golden Eagles had a chance, they jumped out to a 12-4 lead and never looked back. After winning their first two games by a combined three points, they ended up beating the Hurricanes by 10, and it probably could have been much worse if they pushed through for the entire 40 minutes.
The difference in the game was that Marquette controlled the paint and they made their shots. Big men Davante Gardner and Chris Otule had a combined 25 points to lead the way. On the outside, Jamil Wilson hit three from behind the arc. As for Miami, they were cold to start the game going 1-for-11 from three-point land. Their best player, Shane Larkin, was contained and he didn't do all that much to separate himself. The Canes usually reliable shooters in Durand Scott and Rion Brown went a combined 5-for-25 from the field.
As for Syracuse, they took out not only one of the tournament favorites to win it all, but also the preseason No. 1 seed in Indiana. Their defense was just too much to handle as the Hoosiers could only muster 50 points, 30 below their season average. Michael Carter-Williams was unstoppable on the offensive end and led the defensive charge with four steals. Indiana turned the ball over 18 times and was blocked 12 times.
Marquette has some experience with this zone already after beating Syracuse 74-71 back in February in Milwaukee. It's going to be hard to compare these two games as both teams are playing their best basketball of the year and the Cuse was in the midst of a three-game losing streak in that last meeting. Even then, that game was quite the anomaly to what Marquette has been doing lately. Vander Blue only had six points in 23 minutes of work while Gardner came in with a 26-point, eight-rebound performance. While Syracuse shot better from the field than Marquette, they attempted 28 less free throws. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Golden Eagles once again, attack the basket as much as possible.
Blue will most likely play a bigger role in this game, considering he's been one of the best players in the tournament thus far. It will also be important for the rest of Marquette's players to build on last games performances. Locket, Cadougan and Wilson were all very active whether getting rebounds or on the defensive end. Gardner will once again play an important role as the big man against the zone.
This is an unfortunate matchup for Syracuse, mainly because they'll be facing a team that has prior experience against their zone this year. The short period between games won't have as big of an effect as it would if they were playing a new opponent like Miami. Still, no matter how you look at it with the way the Orange are playing right now, they have to be favorites.
Led by a stifling defense that just shut down what many considered to be the best offense in the nation, Syracuse gets the edge. Offensively, while they still make some very questionable plays (mainly Brandon Triche and his six turnovers), they are a scary team to face especially when Carter-Williams is hitting his shot which he was against Indiana. He and Triche can pretty much drive on anyone while James Southerland can stretch the floor with his shot. And of course you have C.J. Fair in the middle who can hit deeper shots, but also loves to work on the block.
With the great games both of these teams are coming off of, the viewer should be in for a great matchup. Can the Syracuse zone continue its dominance or will Marquette once again find a way into the hole and get the Orange into foul trouble. If the Golden Eagles can repeat their last defensive performance, another upset could be in the making.
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