Initial Questions About Michigan vs. SyracusePosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 31st, 2013
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Take a deep breath Big Ten basketball fans; Michigan‘s win over Florida might have avoided a full week of coverage from the hoops media about the conference being “overrated.” The Gators were surprisingly a great match-up for the Wolverines because they were run out of the building (79-59), but the Final Four match-up against Syracuse will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for John Beilein. Jim Boeheim already dismantled Tom Crean with his defensive game plan and Beilein may not get much sleep over the next week because the 2-3 zone can befuddle his team without an effective game plan that can be executed with his personnel. The following are three key questions about the Wolverines’ game against the Orange:
- Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams from getting into the paint? Williams had his way against Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and used his length (6’6″) to consistently attack the basket to finish with 24 points. Beilein has a tough decision to make on this defensive match-up because Trey Burke gives up at least five inches and not to mention could pick up some a quick foul or two if he tries to strip the ball away from Williams. In order to match Williams’ length, Beilein may have to go with Nik Stauskas or Tim Hardaway Jr. which could be trouble because neither of the Wolverines wings are known for their defense. Stauksas enjoyed a great game (22 points) against the Gators but may not be effective on the offensive end if he is assigned to check Williams throughout the game.
- Can Mitch McGary stay calm in the middle of the 2-3 zone? Nobody has been more impressive on this Michigan squad during this tournament than McGary as he has averaged 17.5 PPG and more importantly, has been extremely confident in the paint. But he needs to channel that confidence against the 2-3 zone because he will be expected to park himself in the high post, a pivotal position for any offense that attempts to break the zone. Cody Zeller had a tough time against the zone because he tried to lower his shoulder and drive towards the basket too many times without any success, but Marquette’s Davante Gardner’s performance in the Elite 8 game may be a better style for McGary to emulate. Gardner didn’t try to dribble around the zone once it collapsed but instead, looked to move the ball from one side to the other consistently. McGary will have to take his time in the half-court sets rather than hoist quick shots and will be asked to set several high ball screens to open the lane for Burke to drive towards the basket. Is he capable of delivering against a tough defensive scheme? There is no reason to doubt him because he has shown great work ethic over the past few weeks and he should be prepared for this match-up.
- Can the Michigan guards shoot over the tall Syracuse wings? Buzz Williams’ team caught a lot of slack for poor shot selection (3-24 3FG) but they can’t be blamed too much because C.J.Fair and James Southerland have tremendous wingspan which makes it very tough for the opposing guards to shoot over them. The Wolverines’ wings can shoot the three but they might have to go to their pump-fake more often than not and put the ball on the floor to cut towards the basket to open up the zone. Yes, it is easier said than done but Hardaway and Stauskas are much quicker than Fair and Southerland which could be a huge advantage for them if they can force the defense to keep up with their dibble. If Stauskas and Hardaway play the corners, it is likely that Spike Albrecht will get some playing time as the fourth guard because he will play a key role with Burke to swing the ball over from one side to the other to force the zone to move around repeatedly.