Syracuse Orange Keita blocks Marquette Golden Eagles Mayo during the first half in their East Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Washington

Marquette had enough talent to win in March, but not enough to play to April


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marquette has seen the Syracuse 2-3 zone before. They’ve seen it a lot, both in-person and on film. In fact, they’ve beaten the zone this year, a 74-71 win back on February 25th.

But the teams that survive and advance late into March are usually equipped with a handful future NBA players, maybe even an all-star or two.

On Saturday in the East regional finals, Marquette’s talent was no match for Syracuse’s talent, and the final score reflected this, a 55-39 win for the Orange.

Vander Blue led the Golden Eagles with 14 points, but needed 15 field goal attempts to get there. Davante Gardner finished with 11 points, but scored just two points in the second half. And to make matters worse, the Orange got strong performances from their top guys. Michael Carter-Williams, who was named the MVP of the East Region, finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. James Southerland led all players with 16 points, and C.J. Fair provided 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

Syracuse’s players played better than Marquette’s players.

Marquette struggled to hit open shots from the wings, and were unable to cut through the interior of the 2-3 zone. They made just 12 field goals on 55 attempts (22.6%) and just three 3-pointers on 24 attempts (12.5%). But their struggles weren’t because of a lack of effort or a bad game plan.

“Syracuse was the better team, they had better players. They have pros,” said Buzz Williams, who advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in his five years at Marquette. “I think they probably have guys on their team that after they win the national championship may not play for Syracuse anymore. It is the zone, and it is the players in the zone.

Simply put, this Marquette team is not built to beat a team from the perimeter. This is not a team with an elite front court. Marquette’s best 3-point shooter is Jamil Wilson, who entered the game 38-for-95 from beyond the arc (38%), and finished the contest with just three points on 1-for-9 shooting, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Marquette can scrap with just about any team in the country, but if you force them out of their comfort zone, they are just like any other good-but-not-great college basketball team.

“I just think they flat-out played better than us from start to finish,” said Junior Cadougan, who finished with just six points. “Coach said we did everything possible to put us in a better situation, but we didn’t get consecutive stops and they did a great job.”

Perhaps Marquette believed that they could shoot as well against Syracuse as they did against Miami on Thursday. The Golden Eagles shot 27-for-50 from the field against the Hurricanes, unquestionably one of their top shooting performances of the season.But against Syracuse, they had stretches of five and six minutes in the first half where they failed to score a field goal.

Marquette has both in-game experience against the 2-3 zone, and a coaching staff that excels at game tape analysis. But one of the tools you need in order to beat a lanky zone like Syracuse’s is a perimeter attack, and there is a reason Marquette is ranked 310th in the nation in three-point percentage.

Maybe this loss means we should be giving Buzz Williams even more credit for the job he’s done with this team. On paper, Marquette is a top-25 team. But on the court, they have, at times, played like a top-10 team. You never have to question the heart, determination or toughness of a Buzz Williams-coached team. Buzz Williams has made a living off of getting good players to play hard.

“Well, he’s a tremendous basketball coach,” said Boeheim during Friday’s pregame press conference. “He’s done a tremendous job. They have a very good team. I just look at the players on the team, I don’t look at the hype. They have very good players. They’re very good defensively. They can score inside, they can score outside. They handle the ball, they don’t make mistakes.”

This was Marquette’s eighth-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and their third straight Sweet 16. But this was just their first trip past the Sweet 16 since some guy named Dwayne Wade led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. Sure Marquette has produced NBA players since 2003, guys like Lazar Hayward, Wesley Matthews and Jae Crowder. I’d be willing to bet that at least one player from this current team makes it to the NBA.

But you need elite talent to win a National Championship. In March, teams with more talent tend to win out, and on Saturday, that’s exactly what happened.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir.

Ingram scores 15, leads No. 6 Duke past pesky Yale 80-61

Marshall Plumlee, Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Freshman Brandon Ingram scored 15 points and played a key role in the defensive switch that helped No. 6 Duke beat Yale 80-61 on Wednesday night.

Matt Jones had 17 points and Grayson Allen scored 15 for the Blue Devils (5-1), while Ingram sparked Duke out of a lethargic start with his pressure as the front man after the switch to a 1-3-1 zone defense.

Freshman Luke Kennard finished with 12 points for the Blue Devils, who finally took control with a 17-2 run during a 5 1/2-minute span that bridged the halves. Duke outscored Yale 42-25 in the second half.

Justin Sears scored 19 points and Makai Mason had 13 points for the Bulldogs (3-2). The preseason favorites in the Ivy League led for all but 90 seconds of the first half but shot just 30 percent after the break.

The clear difference was Duke’s switch late in the first half to that zone defense with the 6-foot-9 Ingram out in front – where he could disrupt Yale’s ballhandlers, get his 7-3 wingspan into passing lanes and pester the perimeter shooters.

Yale, which shoots 40 percent from 3-point range, was just 4 of 15 in this one. Duke finished with 12 steals and forced 13 turnovers, turning them into 16 points.

That defensive pressure sparked the game-turning run, with the zone forcing turnovers on consecutive trips down court that Duke turned into transition buckets.

Ingram later took a steal coast to coast for a layup that gave the Blue Devils their first double-figure lead at 48-38 with 16:43 to play. Allen capped the decisive run with a layup on the next trip down court.

They eventually pulled away, pushing the lead into the 20s on a jumper with 2 1/2 minutes left by Amile Jefferson, who finished with 12 rebounds.

The lopsided final score was surprising because Duke was in trouble for virtually the entire first half. Yale routinely outworked the Blue Devils and generated easy baskets – none easier than Mason’s unimpeded drive across the lane for a layup that put the Bulldogs up 27-20 with 7 1/2 minutes left before the break.


VIDEO: Colorado player ejected for biting another player

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Colorado is playing Air Force tonight.

For some reason or another, Colorado’s Tory Miller got mad at Air Force’s Hayden Graham.

So he bit him.


At least he didn’t pretend that he teeth hurt after getting bit.

Miller, obviously, was ejected. Colorado ended up winning the game.