Final Four Action
April 5, 2013
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Sportsbook.ag Final Four Preview
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (30-7) vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (30-9)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Michigan -2 & 131
A pair of No. 4 seeds with 30 victories apiece will play in Saturday's Final Four when Syracuse takes on Michigan at Georgia Dome.
The Wolverines hit the wall at the start of February, finishing the regular season 1-9 ATS (5-5 SU) and then losing to Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. But they have been outstanding in the NCAA Tournament, beating their four opponents by an average score of 79 to 63, including three wins of 15+ points. The Orange have also dominated in their four NCAA wins, with three double-digit victories and a +20.0 PPG margin, prevailing by an average score of 66 to 46. The Wolverines are 8-1 (SU and ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these teams by 11.7 PPG. Syracuse is now 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS) in the postseason and 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) on a neutral court this season. Michigan is just 2-5 ATS as a non-home favorite this season, while the Orange are 4-3 (SU and ATS) in the underdog role. These teams last met two seasons ago on a neutral court in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, resulting in a 53-50 Syracuse win.
Michigan is a team that matches up well against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, scoring 75.5 PPG (23rd in nation) on 48.5% FG (6th in D-I) and 38.5% threes (18th in nation). And while Syracuse thrives on creating miscues with its long-armed roster, the Wolverines have the fewest amount of turnovers in the country (9.4 TOPG), lead the nation in Ast/TO ratio (1.55) and rebound pretty well too with a +3.1 RPG margin. Michigan's defense is adequate (62.9 PPG, 42.3% FG, 32.3% threes allowed) and is able to stay out of foul trouble (12.7 fouls per game, 2nd-fewest in D-I), by preferring not to take many chances in trying to force turnovers, as evidenced by a mere 2.8 BPG and 6.2 SPG, which rank 245th and 225th in the nation, respectively. The Wolverines' backcourt of sophomore PG Trey Burke (18.8 PPG) and junior SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) has carried this team all season. Burke's 3.12 Ast/TO ranks third in the country, and his 6.8 APG places 12th among the nation's leaders. Burke can also score in bunches, averaging 18.7 PPG in his past three games, including 23 points after halftime in the big comeback win over Kansas in the Sweet 16. Although he shoots 38.1% threes for the season, he is just 7-for-27 (26%) from downtown in the NCAA's, something he'll have to improve facing Syracuse's zone defense. Hardaway also shoots a high percentage from behind the arc (38.7%), but is just 2-of-8 in the past two games, and did not shoot well against the Syracuse 2-3 zone two seasons ago, making just 3-of-12 shots (1-of-8 threes) in the loss in Atlantic City. Hardaway Jr. snapped a streak of seven straight double-figure scoring games in the Elite Eight win over Florida, scoring just nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. But this is much more than a two-man team. Six-foot-10 freshman PF Mitch McGary (7.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) has been phenomenal in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.5 PPG on 73% FG with 11.5 RPG and 2.8 SPG. His 25 points, 14 rebounds and three steals were vital to his team's comeback over Kansas. Freshman PF Glenn Robinson III (11.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG) played poorly in the Big Ten Tournament (6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but he has certainly stepped up in the NCAA's with 13.5 PPG on 62% FG and 6.3 RPG. Another freshman, SF Nik Stauskas (11.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is the team's best three-point shooter at 45% and busted out of his shooting slump in a big way on Sunday. After averaging just 7.8 PPG on 10-of-31 FG and 2-of-16 threes over his previous four games, Stauskas drained 7-of-8 shots (6-of-6 threes) for 22 points against the Gators.
Syracuse's 2-3 zone has been unbelievable in the tournament, holding opponents to 45.8 PPG on 28.9% FG and 15.2% threes. For the season, the school allows 58.6 PPG (21st in nation) on 36.8% FG (3rd in D-I) and 28.2% threes (3rd in nation). Marquette's 39 points on Saturday were the fewest in the shot clock era for an Elite Eight game, as the Golden Eagles shot 22.6% from the floor (12-of-53 FG) and 3-of-24 threes (12.5%). The Orange are averaging 10.8 SPG and 6.5 BPG in the NCAA Tournament, increasing their season averages to 9.1 SPG (10th in D-I) and 6.2 BPG (5th in nation). But it hasn't just been missed shots for opponents, as they are also turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Syracuse has posted a +22 turnover margin for the tournament, committing just 10.8 TOPG and forcing 16.3 TOPG. For the season, the Orange have a +3.2 TO margin, good for 20th in the nation. This team continues to rally around PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.1 PPG). The 6-foot-6 sophomore ranks third in the nation in assists (7.4 APG) and fourth in steals (2.79 SPG). He's averaged 16.0 PPG in his past three games, and did it all on Saturday with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. The only negative for Carter-Williams has been his dreadful foul shooting, as he's made a pitiful 13-of-33 free throws (39%) over the past six games. Senior SG Brandon Triche (13.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.5 APG) has been inconsistent all tourney, but he's still averaging 12.8 PPG despite his 41.7% FG shooting. PF C.J. Fair (14.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) is team's top scorer and rebounder, and has played very well in the NCAA Tournament with 13.8 PPG (47% FG) and 6.0 RPG. Senior PF James Southerland (13.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG) is the most potent long-range shooter for the Orange at 40.3% threes, and is coming off a 16-point outburst against Marquette. C Baye Keita (3.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG) isn't asked to score much, but has played excellent defense in the NCAA's with 15 rebounds and seven blocks. Triche, Fair, Southerland and Keita all played in that win over Michigan two seasons ago. Triche had six points, four assists and four turnovers, Fair netted just two points in 10 minutes, Southerland didn't take a shot in five minutes and Keita also was 0-for-0 FG, but had nine rebounds and two blocks in his 26 minutes of action.
WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (30-8) vs. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (33-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Louisville -10.5 & 131
The top-seeded school in the NCAA Tournament takes on the biggest surprise team of the tourney in the first Final Four game when Louisville meets Wichita State on Saturday in Atlanta.
The ninth-seeded Shockers have not only won four straight games to make the Final Four, but they have done so in blowout fashion. They have topped their opponents by an average of 10.5 PPG, and have held four NCAA tourney opponents under 36% FG. Louisville also knows a thing or two about defense, winning 14 straight games (11-3 ATS) by holding all 14 opponents to under 70 points, including limiting 10 of those opponents below 60 points. The Cardinals are now 18-1 SU (17-1-1 ATS) in their past 19 games in the month of March over the past two seasons. The Shockers are a stellar 9-1 SU (7-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these opponents by 9.7 PPG, while Louisville is 10-1 SU (8-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring its opponents by 16.5 PPG. And while WSU is 5-2 (SU and ATS) in the underdog role, Louisville is 7-3 (SU and ATS) when favored in non-home games.
Wichita State continues to win with a hard-nosed defense that allows only 60.9 PPG on 39.3% FG and 32.1% threes for the season. NCAA Tournament foes have scored 62.3 PPG against the Shockers, but have made just 34.3% of their shots. WSU has outrebounded six of seven opponents in the postseason and now ranks 7th in the nation in rebounding margin (+8.0 RPG). The Shockers offense has been pretty strong as well in the tourney, averaging 72.8 PPG despite a subpar 42.7% FG clip. But three-point shooting has been outstanding over their past three wins, as they are 27-of-60 (45%) from downtown. The Shockers are able to stay fresh and hound opponents on defense because head coach Gregg Marshall gives 11 of his players at least 11 MPG. The three double-digit scorers are junior SF Cleanthony Early (13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and seniors PF Carl Hall (12.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and PG Malcolm Armstead (10.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.8 RPG). Early had just 5.0 PPG on 5-of-21 FG in three games leading up to the tourney, but has stepped up his play in the NCAA's with 14.3 PPG on 48% FG and 7.0 RPG. The 6-foot-8 Hall has scored 10.8 PPG (52% FG) and 4.8 RPG in the NCAA Tournament, but his defense has been huge, blocking 12 shots over the past three games, including six against OSU in the Elite Eight. Armstead has scored 15.5 PPG in the four tourney games, but has made just 36% FG and 6-of-21 threes (29%). He has contributed in other ways though with 6.0 RPG and 2.3 SPG over the past three contests. Freshman SG Ron Baker (8.6 PPG) was 0-for-5 against Pittsburgh to start the tournament, but hasn't missed much in the past two games, scoring 14.5 PPG on 9-of-16 FG (56%), including 6-of-10 from three-point range and 14-of-15 from the foul line. Both sophomore G Tekele Cotton (6.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG) and freshman G Fred Van Vleet (4.3 PPG) are coming off double-figure scoring games against the Buckeyes, with Cotton netting 10 points with five boards, and Van Vleet contributing 12 points (4-of-8 FG) and two steals.
Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in scoring margin (+16.2 PPG) with 74.3 PPG of offense (31st in nation) and 58.1 PPG allowed on defense (16th in D-I). The Cards outshoot opponents 45.6% FG to 39.2% FG (28th in nation), but they do not rely on the three-point shot like most Rick Pitino-coached teams do. Louisville makes just 5.6 threes per game (231st in D-I) on a subpar 32.8% clip (217th in nation). This team thrives on full-court pressure, using 10.9 steals per game (2nd in D-I) and a +6.1 turnover margin (also 2nd in nation) to get plenty of easy baskets. This defense has forced 17.8 TOPG in the NCAA's, which is a big reason why the team is scoring a hefty 80.8 PPG on 55.1% FG in the Big Dance. Nobody has been scoring quite like SG Russ Smith (18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG), who is averaging 26.0 PPG on 54.1% FG in the NCAA Tournament. He's gotten a ton of points by driving to the hoop and drawing fouls, as he's 32-for-40 (80%) from the line in the NCAA's. Smith has also tallied 13 steals in the four wins, to increase his season average to 2.1 SPG. Senior PG Peyton Siva (9.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.2 SPG) is coming off his best NCAA Tournament game against Duke when he scored 16 points (6-of-10 FG) with four assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes. That was quite an improvement from his four points, three assists and four turnovers in the Sweet 16 against Oregon. This talented backcourt did not play well in last year's Final Four loss to Kentucky though, combining for 8-of-26 shooting (31%) with four assists and six turnovers. However the team's two big men did play well in that lost to UK in New Orleans, as C Gorgui Dieng (10.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG) scored seven points with 12 boards (8 offensive) and four blocks, while PF Chane Behanan (9.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG) scored 10 points with nine rebounds. In this year's NCAA Tournament, Dieng is averaging 11.0 PPG on 20-of-24 FG (83%), 7.5 RPG and 2.5 BPG. His only problem has been foul shooting, where he's made just 2-of-10 FT in the past two games. Behanan is coming off his best NCAA tourney game this year, netting eight points, eight rebounds and three steals versus Duke. Junior swingman Luke Hancock (7.4 PPG) also had his highest scoring game in the Elite Eight scoring 10 points on 2-of-3 FG and 5-of-5 free throws. The Cards rallied against the Blue Devils after sophomore SG Kevin Ware (4.5 PPG) suffered a horrific broken leg late in the first half, beating Duke 50-31 after halftime, and are using Ware's misfortune as further motivation to capture the NCAA Championship.