Orange aim to make statement
Syracuse, Louisville represent dominant Big East in Final Four
ATLANTA -- For much of the 2012-13 season, the Big Ten conference has been painted as the powerhouse conference of college basketball.
The Big Ten started this season housing both the preseason No. 1 team, Indiana, and preseason No. 1 player, sophomore forward Cody Zeller. Another Big Ten sophomore, Michigan’s Trey Burke, has been named the best player in the country.
But Syracuse’s junior forward C.J. Fair thinks the Big East may have the chance to get the last laugh.
The Big East has sent two teams to the Final Four this season, as Louisville joins the Orange, while Michigan is the Big Ten’s only representative in Atlanta.
“I don’t think the Big East has gotten as much credit as it deserved,” Fair said. “The Big Ten has some great teams in [its] conference, but both Indiana and Michigan play kinda similar as far as they want to get in transition.
“We didn’t let Indiana get into any offensive rhythm and I don’t think [it] got any transition points, so I think that’s something we’ll try to dominate against Michigan.”
On Syracuse’s road to the Final Four, the Orange took down Indiana, the Big Ten regular-season champion, a team that spent 10 weeks atop the national rankings. With the help of its 2-3 zone, the Orange stifled the Hoosiers in their Sweet 16 matchup.
Indiana came into last week’s Sweet 16 showdown with Syracuse as one of the quickest and most efficient offenses in the country, but the Hoosiers scored just 50 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the floor in Syracuse’s 11-point upset victory.
Against Michigan, the Orange will have to find some way to stop Burke, whose 18.8-point overall scoring average was second best in the Big Ten.
Syracuse sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams, who may take on much of the responsibility of limiting Burke in the Orange zone, said he’s eager to take on the opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Carter-Williams said. “It’ll be a great challenge for me, but you know, he’s got a lot of pressure, holding up expectations as player of the year, and I have no pressure.”
Much like Burke going into the Final Four, the Big Ten came into the NCAA tournament with one of the most successful seasons in conference history.
Seven teams received bids to the Big Dance, the most in conference history. Four made it to the Sweet 16, but IU, Ohio State and Michigan State fell short on their quest for Atlanta.
The Big East, on the other hand, saw eight teams make the tournament, with three moving on to the Elite Eight before Syracuse and Marquette met in the East regional final.
With the Orange and Louisville still alive, Carter-Williams said he hopes his team can win Saturday to secure what he thinks would be conference supremacy ahead of the Big Ten.
“We’ve been trying to prove ourselves that we’re better than the Big Ten the whole season,” Carter-Williams said. “There’s so many great teams in the Big East, and it really prepared us for the tournament, and that’s why I think we have two teams in the Final Four.”