Continuing the insanity that has been the NCAA Tournament, the 10 seeded Syracuse Orange head to Houston to continue their Cinderella run against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. Syracuse is coming off an incredible and unlikely second half comeback against 1 seeded Virginia to move on. Here they face the #1 North Carolina team that handedly defeated Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. The two teams will meet Saturday night at 8:49pm on TBS.
Match-Up to Watch: Brice Johnson vs Tyler Roberson
This matchup is very intriguing to me. Brice Johnson is the Tar Heels leading scorer and one of the top rebounders in all of college basketball. The Orange, as one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country, may have trouble containing a player like Johnson. Their best shot lies in junior forward Tyler Roberson. Roberson has been playing fantastic all tournament, averaging 10.3 and 11.8 rebounds per game. Johnson and Roberson will battle in the post all game and it will be interesting to see which one of them can gain the advantage.
X-Factor for North Carolina: Not Settling for 3pt Shots
North Carolina is not a three point shooting team. They thrive on moving the ball around and getting it inside to their talented big men. In their last game against Notre Dame, the Tar Heels shot only 4-13 from behind the arc, which was a problem even though they ended up winning the game by 14 points. If North Carolina can resist the temptation of taking a lot of three point shots, they will be able to control the tempo of the game.
X-Factor for Syracuse: Three Point Shots
On the other hand, Syracuse NEEDS to take threes in this game. The Orange have been living and dying from behind the arc all season and they need to continue their hot streak if they wish to advance. Freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon have been very consistent from the perimeter all tournament and need to continue to do so in order for Syracuse to win. Richardson erupted in the second half against Virginia scoring 21 of his 23 total point, which was a large part of the reason the Orange were able to come out on top. If they can keep up this three point efficiency, Syracuse can keep it a close.
Key Stat: Offensive Rebounds
The rebound advantage will be very important for this game. North Carolina has the upper hand over Syracuse in regards to rebounds per game (41 to 36), but it will be the offensive glass that controls the game. The leading offensive rebounders for each team during the tournament are Tyler Roberson (5.5 per game) of Syracuse and Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks (3.7) of North Carolina. The team that controls the offensive glass will be able to take advantage of the second chance point opportunities.
It pains me to say this, but the Cinderella story ends here. The Tar Heels’ dynamic offense will prove to be too much for the Orange. North Carolina moves on to the National Championship game with a 70-63 victory.