|26-8||14-4||1st B.E.||68.9||62.8||46.3||30.5||72.9||Won 3|
|29-9||11-7||5th B.E.||71.2||59.1||44.1||33.8||67.7||Won 3|
Tip-time (EST): 4:30 p.m. (CBS)
Location: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
All-time series: Syracuse leads 8-5.
Last meeting: Marquette defeated Syracuse, 74-71, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee (2/25/13). Syracuse jumped out to an early 27-16 lead by the under-4 media timeout in the first half before the relentless play of Davante Gardner took control from there. The wide-bodied junior exploded for a career-high 26 points on the power of 7-of-7 shooting from the floor and a healthy diet of trips to the line. Gardner lived at the charity stripe, especially in the second half, sinking 12 of his 13 attempts overall and lifting a resilient Golden Eagles team past the shell-shocked Orange. In all, Marquette shot 35 free throws, Syracuse just eight. Chalk that up to an inexact mix of Marquette’s attacking mindset and some favorable home cooking.
Syracuse stats to know:
48 – The number of points per game Syracuse has allowed in the tournament, the lowest per-game average of any team in the field.
31 – The field goal percentage of Syracuse opponents over the first three rounds, also the best mark of any team in the field.
16 – The 3-point field goal percentage of Syracuse opponents in the tournament, this too the best mark of any team in the field.
Marquette stats to know:
1.02 – Marquette’s points per shot average in the first 37 minutes of its three tournament games.
2.00 – Marquette’s points per shot average in the final three minutes of its three tournament games.
80 – Marquette’s free throw percentage in the NCAA tournament.
68 – The free throw percentage of Marquette opponents in the tournament.
How Syracuse wins: By packing in the zone, denying driving angles and daring Marquette — the worst 3-point shooting team in the tournament — to score from the perimeter. The Eagles turned to a two-big lineup and chewed up the Orange in the paint when the two teams met last month. Marquette drifted Chris Otule along the baseline, behind the back wall of the 2-3 zone, while either flashing Gardner to the elbow or packing him down onto the strong-side low block. For Syracuse to combat Marquette’s two-in, three-out look, the Orange cannot extend its zone as it did against Indiana, the best 3-point shooting team in the tournament. Jim Boeheim doesn’t get enough credit for changing his amoebic defense from game to game depending on the opponent. Expect him to do the same this afternoon. Offensively, the Orange must work its half court sets off of star stretch-4 C.J. Fair. Fair burnt the Golden Eagles for 20 points (8-11 FG) in the first meetings, mostly by pulling out the immobile Chris Otule. If SU utilizes Fair early and often, the Orange should be able to stretch Marquette’s defense and create driving lanes for Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams.
How Marquette wins: Attack the teeth of the Syracuse zone as the team did to perfection in Milwaukee. Even good shooting clubs have had difficulty beating the Orange from long distance this season, in particular in the tournament. Marquette must again attack the middle of the 2-3 zone — especially when Rakeem Christmas is manning the pivot — and exploit the team’s edge in frontcourt skill. Although the task is daunting, Vander Blue will need to find a way to penetrate the top layer of the zone and cause the Syracuse center to come up and play the ball. The more attention Blue draws, the easier life will be for the rest of Marquette’s team.