Syracuse vs. Texas

NCAA Tournament

April 05, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg

Tonight's second game

What: NCAA tournament semifinal.

Site: Superdome, New Orleans.

Time: 8:47 approximately.

TV: Chs. 13, 9.

Line: Texas by 3.

The teams

Texas: No. 1 seed, 26-6; beat UNC-Asheville, 82-61, in the first round, then beat ninth-seeded Purdue, 77-67, to reach the Sweet 16. Defeated Connecticut, 82-78, then knocked off Michigan State, 85-76, to reach the Final Four. 21st NCAA tournament appearance.

Syracuse: No. 3 seed, 28-5; beat Manhattan, 76-65, in the first round, then defeated Oklahoma State, 68-56, to reach the Sweet 16. Edged Auburn, 79-78, then knocked off No. 1 seed Oklahoma, 63-47, to reach the Final Four. 28th NCAA tournament appearance.

Backcourts

Texas: No player in college basketball can control the game in the open court better than Longhorns point guard T.J. Ford. Only a sophomore, Ford was named the Naismith Player of the Year after averaging 15.1 points and 7.53 assists. Ford isn't a great shooter (he's hit only 40 percent of his shots this season), but he gets to the free-throw line and he's one of the few players who can dominate without scoring points.

Syracuse: Freshman Gerry McNamara and senior Kueth Duany don't get a lot of publicity playing in the shadow of Carmelo Anthony, but the duo has been a major part of the Orangemen's success this season. Duany, a 6 feet 6, 185-pounder, has long arms that can clog up passing lanes on defense. McNamara is a freshman, but he plays like a senior and has been huge in crunch time dishing to the open man.

Edge: Texas.

Frontcourts

Texas: Junior center James Thomas is one of the top rebounders in the country. He led the Big 12 and ranks seventh nationally with 11.1 boards a game. Still, he'll have his work cut out for him; Syracuse seems to have a knack for getting offensive rebounds when it needs them most. He needs to stay out of foul trouble. Brad Buckman had 11 important points in the Longhorns' win over Michigan State.

Syracuse: At 6-8, Anthony, everyone's Freshman of the Year, provides major matchup problems for anyone who tries to guard him. He can put in on the floor, hit mid-range jump shots, post up with his back to the basket and knock down three-pointers if he's left alone.

Edge: Syracuse.

Benches

Texas: The Longhorns won't hesitate to go to their bench, which is one of the deepest in the country. Jason Klotz and Deginald Erskin give Texas energy, defense and rebounding off the bench, while Brian Boddicker is one of the best sixth men in the country and may be the Longhorns best three-point shooter (42 percent).

Syracuse: Billy Edelin provides a nice change of pace from McNamara, and his 6-4 frame might create problems for Texas defensively. The Orangemen don't have a lot of depth, but Jeremy McNeil (6-8, 260 pounds) is a big body off the bench that may need to spell Forth if he gets in foul trouble.

Edge: Texas.

Coaches

Texas: Basketball season used to just be a way to count the days until football season started in Austin, but Rick Barnes has helped change that. Before this year, Texas had been ranked in the AP Top 10 only three times, but the Longhorns spent all 19 weeks in the Top 10 this year. A win today would break the school record for victories.

Syracuse: Jim Boeheim is an institution at Syracuse. In 27 seasons, he has compiled a record of 651-226 (.742) and trails only Roy Williams of Kansas in winning percentage among active coaches. The Orangemen may be talented, but it's a credit to Boeheim how well this team has played, considering how young it is. Boeheim's 2-3 zone has given teams fits in the tournament, and is one of the nation's best. His teams have been this close before; in 1987, Syracuse lost to Indiana, 74-73, on a last-second jumper in the title game; in 1996, the Orangemen lost to Kentucky, 76-67, in the title game.

Edge: Syracuse.

Keys to victory

Texas: The Longhorns can't sit back, they have to attack. Ford needs to control the tempo and out-run Syracuse in transition. No one on Syracuse's team can stay with him in the open court, and when he drives, his teammates need to knock down jumpers when he finds them. Royal Ivey needs to make Anthony work hard for his points and keep him off the offensive glass.

Syracuse: The Orangemen need a big game from Anthony, because Texas doesn't have anyone that can match-up with him. If McNamara starts hitting from the outside, it opens up all kind of options for Syracuse. Ford is an outstanding point guard, but he's an average shooter. Syracuse needs to make him prove he can hit open shots, and stay out of foul trouble.

Bottom line

Syracuse's zone embarrassed Oklahoma in the last round, but the Sooners only had a day to prepare for it. Texas has had a week to break things down, and will be better, but it won't be enough. Anthony will score 20 points and grab nine rebounds, but McNamara will make the difference for Syracuse, hitting a couple of big shots in the closing moments to give Boeheim his third title game appearance.

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