Once again, the Syracuse 2-3 zone stymied its opponent and James Southerland scored 16 points to lead the Orange back to the Final Four for the first time in 10 years with a 55-39 win over Big East rival, Marquette, in the East Region final, while Wichita State, once again, shocked another opponent, Ohio State, and advanced as well.
Coach Jim Boeheim’s defense trapped and challenged shot after shot and limited Marquette to just seven points in the first 14 minutes of the game. Syracuse didn’t shoot very well either - 38 percent for the game - and led by only six at the half. Michael Carter-Williams, the Orange’s brilliant 6-foot-6 guard, led a 9-3 run to start the half and give the Orange a double-digit lead, one it would never relinquish. Carter-Williams would finish with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
Buzz William’s Marquette squad, which had beaten the Orange 74-71 back in February, just couldn’t do anything right. The Golden Eagles shot 23 percent and committed 13 turnovers. The 39 points scored were the fewest scored all season for Marquette and also the fewest scored by a team in an NCAA tournament regional final since the shot clock came into existence in 1986.
Vander Blue, who had an amazing tournament, led Marquette with 14 points. The Golden Eagles, who had tied Georgetown and Louisville for the regular season Big East title, end the season at 26-9.
Jim Boeheim becomes the fourth coach to guide his team to Final Fours in four different decades. He may end playing one of the others. Both Rick Pitino, currently at Louisville, and Mike Krzyzewski, head coach at Duke, have done the same. Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith is the other.
Wichita State continues to shock the college basketball world becoming the first Missouri Valley Conference team to advance to the Final Four since the 1979 Indiana State Sycamores led by a guy named Larry Bird. The Shockers built a 20-point lead and survived a valiant Ohio State comeback for a 70-66 win in the West Region final.
Senior guard Malcolm Armstead scored 14 points, had seven rebounds, and three assists to lead the Shockers (30-8). Wichita State led by 20 with 11 minutes to play but Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas and LaQuinton Ross led a ferocious rally that trimmed that lead to three in the final minutes. Thomas finished with 23 points and Ross had 15 of his 19 in the second half.
Ohio State shot just 31 percent from the field (just 5-for-25 from three-point range) as their 11-game winning streak came to an abrupt end a game short of what would have been their second straight Final Four. Wichita State reaches the Final Four for the first time since 1965. They are just the fifth team in history seeded ninth or higher to reach the Final Four since 1979, the year seeding began.