As a whole, the tournament has been kind of a bust this season. Florida Gulf Coast was fun while it lasted. Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross have hit some game-winners. Marquette played a couple exciting first weekend games. But the majority of the games have been blowouts. Even Wichita State’s run to the Final Four has been a bore, for the most part.
But this game? It has the chance to be a classic. Player of the Year vs. the toughest defense in the tournament. The most surprising freshman vs. the most athletic front line in the country. John Beilein vs. Jim Boeheim. Three point shooters vs. the zone.
Most importantly, two of the five most talented teams in the country squaring off on the biggest stage when they’re playing their best basketball. It should be fun.
Key Player: Mitch McGary
McGary has been arguably the best player in the tournament to date. He’s averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 boards through four games, single-handedly keeping the Wolverines in the game against Kansas for 33 minutes and then setting the tone in the blowout win over Florida. And the big fella has a pretty good matchup with this Syracuse team. Their big guys are long and athletic, but they aren’t nearly as physical as McGary is. There are few big men in the country that are as long and athletic as Jeff Withey, and eight days ago he gave the Kansas all-american 25 points and 14 boards.
Key Matchup: Trey Burke guarding Michael Carter-Williams
It feels obvious to say that the key matchup is the most important player from one team guarding the most important player from the other team, but it’s true. Carter-Williams is going to have a good five inches on Burke, and the last time we saw him going up against a guy where he had that kind of a size advantage, Carter-Williams gave Yogi Ferrell and Jordy Hulls 24 points in his best offensive performance of the season. That was in the Sweet 16. Will it be the same deal in the Final Four? Who knows, but I do know that Michigan cannot win if Burke cannot at least make things difficult for the Syracuse star.
Key Stat: 12-94
That’s what opponents are shooting from three against Syracuse in this tournament. Michigan has relied on the three-ball as much as anyone in the country this season. The Wolverines don’t have a chance if those three-balls aren’t going down.
Who Wins?: It’s going to come down to the final possession, which means that I’m going with Michigan. You don’t bet against Trey Burke in the clutch.
Arizona commit Terrance Ferguson has been known as one of the best dunkers in the country for the last few years. So you knew the 6-foot-6 wing was going to attempt the latest internet dunk craze that’s been going around.
Some call it the, “5-point play” in which the dunker makes a 3-pointer and immediately sprints following the shot release to catch the make for an under-the-legs dunk.
It’s as tough as it sounds and Ferguson makes it look easy.
Bol Bol is the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, and the younger Bol is earning quite a bit of attention himself as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018.
The 6-foot-11 Bol showed off some of his freakish coordination and athleticism on Friday night, by ripping a steal and taking it coast-to-coast for an under-the-legs dunk in the middle of a game at the Jayhawk Invitational.
Bol will be one of the players to watch this spring as he plays with KC Run GMC.
Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long gets hardship waiver to play additional year
“Everything happens for a reason and although it hurt to not be able to play for a group of guys I loved last year, my body needed time to recover and that time off allowed me to feel the best I’ve felt since my freshman year,” Mitrou-Long said in the release. “I’m glad I’ll be able to play for the best fans in the country and represent the name on the front of my jersey, Iowa State, one more year. Words can’t describe this feeling. Cyclone Nation, be ready for a special year.”
The 6-foot-4 Long played in eight games last season for Iowa State as he averaged 12 points per game. He missed the rest of the season to deal with pain in his surgically repaired hips. Mitrou-Long has been a very effective three-point shooter during his career at Iowa State and he should be a nice option to have for next season if he’s healthy.
CIAA will stay in North Carolina despite state’s LGBT law
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association says it won’t move its headquarters, its basketball tournament or other conference championships from North Carolina, despite the state’s controversial new LGBT law.
The CIAA said in a statement Thursday that it will instead partner with the NCAA to educate its members on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues as it does on other issues, like graduation rates and concussion management.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the CIAA, the oldest African-American sports conference in the U.S., has hosted its annual basketball tournament in Charlotte since 2006 and announced it was moving its headquarters to Charlotte from Virginia in 2015.
The CIAA said Thursday that it will continue to “monitor the issues,” as it has since House Bill 2 passed.
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