Fans get a taste of the Big East in the Elite Eight matchup of the Syracuse Orange vs. the Marquette Golden Eagles, and certain Orange players are going to have great performances, win or lose.
This team has been fully locked-in ever since the Big East tournament began, and defeating top-seeded Indiana in the Sweet 16 should give them plenty of momentum at their backs. However, Marquette is a tough team that likes to run, so head coach Jim Boeheim's men must not get cocky under any circumstances.
A trip to the Final Four is on the line, and Syracuse's final Big East season is going to come to an end unless the attack against Marquette is both balanced and aggressive. It's going to be all about athleticism, and Syracuse has a great deal of that.
So long as this small handful of players can step up, the Orange should be a lock for the next round.
Fair led the Orange with 14.4 points and seven rebounds per game this season and has been solid for his team in the tournament as well. At 6'8", 215 pounds, the junior has proven to be a fine scorer both in the paint and on the perimeter. If he's about to dunk, fans and opposing players had better be prepared for the thunderous slam that will follow.
In Syracuse's three tournament games, Fair has averaged 14 points and six rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field. As a whole, he's been par for the course.
Against Marquette, however, expect Fair to be playing with an extra bounce in his step. Syracuse lost to the Golden Eagles back on Feb. 25, and the team will definitely be out for revenge with the Final Four on the line.
This means that Fair is going to be more explosive than usual and have an equally explosive game.
Southerland averaged 13.4 points and 5.3 boards per game in his senior season but has been fairly quiet in the tournament. In three games, he has averaged just 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, shooting just 42 percent from the field despite a respectable 40 percent from long range.
However, his on-ball defense has been great to the tune of 2.7 steals per contest. Against Marquette, that aspect of his game must shine bright.
But Southerland must also get back in the scoring groove. I understand that his defense and interior game is a higher priority, but keeping up with Marquette's offensive attack is critical to a Syracuse victory.
If this young man can get his scoring game back, then the Orange will be in a prime position to pull off a win.
The 6'6", 185 pound point guard has easily been the Orange's MVP of the tourney. After posting 12.1 points, 7.5 assists and 2.7 steals on the regular season, while shooting just 40 percent from the field, he has turned on the afterburners in the Big Dance.
Over Syracuse's three games, Carter-Williams has averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.7 steals and five rebounds per contest while shooting 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from long range. Whatever his offensive struggles were during the regular season, they seem to have vanished now.
Hopefully, they will not return against Marquette. Carter-Williams is the reason that the Orange have even gotten this far in the tournament, and their future rests on his shoulders.
The sophomore must drive the lane and keep showing off his new confidence on offense. On top of that, he must continue to find the open man like he has all tourney long, not to mention play excellent on-ball defense. So long as he can maintain his strong effort, Syracuse has a chance at making the Final Four.
Otherwise, the Orange will be in for an uphill battle.
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