A look at Saturday’s national semifinals:
Louisville (33-5) vs. Wichita State (30-8): If you want to know whether an upset is possible, go back to Nov. 13. On that night, Wichita beat Virginia Commonwealth, 53-51, in Richmond. VCU doesn’t measure up to Louisville but the Rams are a formidable opponent that plays a similar style to Louisville. The Shockers are capable of slowing the pace and tilting the court in their favor -- turn it into a half-court wrestling match where each basket is precious. This shouldn't surprise you: Louisville was second in the nation in turnover margin (behind VCU). Rick Pitino’s strategy is to force turnovers. Wichita averages 12.6 turnovers per game and all of its key players are good ballhandlers. So you can make a case for Wichita. But what works against the Shockers is the Cardinals have been the most consistent team in the tournament. They’ve played like the overall No. 1 seed, and if they play up to their standards on Saturday, they should win.
Michigan (30-7) vs. Syracuse (30-9): Speaking at an event for Globe subscribers in Boston this week, former UConn coach Jim Calhoun said this is the best zone defense he has ever seen Syracuse play. That’s scary. No wonder Marquette scored only 39 points. Michigan has a lot more offensive skill than Marquette. The Wolverines have All-America point guard Trey Burke, who’s a threat to score or find open teammates. And those teammates, especially Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, can score. I would expect they’ll be able to score enough. Syracuse’s advantage will be in the paint. The Orange’s big men are not outstanding but athletic forward C.J. Fair will have a chance to score inside. Michigan must hit the defensive boards and then look to run, another key to beating Syracuse’s zone. If the Wolverines can’t find a way to score consistently, if and they fail to rebound, they’re in big trouble.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell