A look at Saturday’s regional finals in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Marquette (26-8) vs. 4. Syracuse (29-9): Both these teams looked overpowering in their regional semifinal victories with Marquette plowing under Miami and Syracuse befuddling Indiana. Marquette is lucky; the Fightin’ McGuires should have lost to Davidson their first game; could have lost to Butler in the second but then crushed Miami with sheer will Thursday. Their best asset is effort, no team plays harder. They also get the ball inside effective especially to Davonte “Twinkle Toes’’ Gardner. Before all this started, they were the worst three-point shooting team in the tournament but they’ve been decent in their three NCAA wins. Syracuse has yet to be seriously challenged as the Orange have regained their shooting touch and have flummoxed all three opponents with their 2-3 zone. When the teams met in the regular season in Milwaukee, Marquette won 74-71 as Gardner scored 26 points, making all seven of high field goal attempts and 12 of 13 free throws. Indiana couldn’t compete with Syracuse near the basket; Marquette has already proven it can. Syracuse blocked 11 Indiana shots but had only three in the loss in Milwaukee. Talent-wise there’s no comparison, Syracuse’s roster is better. So it will be talent vs. effort. I’m liking effort right now.
2. Ohio State (29-7) vs. 9. Wichita State (29-8): That Ohio State is on verge of consecutive Final Four appearances is a surprise but coach Thad Matta has done a tremendous job blending veterans such as Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft with younger players he’s developing such as LaQuinton Ross (who hit the game winner Thursday night) and Shannon Scott (just realized he’s Charlie Scott’s son. Scott played for the Celtics and was the first black player at North Carolina). The Buckeyes have hit their stride at the right time; they played together on the offensive end and tough on defense. The big men are just average. Wichita State is also well coached by Greg Marshall and the Wheat Shockers love to get teams in physical battles and half-court games. This will probably be low-scoring but the Buckeyes will be able to meet the physical challenge and advance to the Final Four.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell