A stretch of subpar basketball to end the regular season was the reason the Syracuse men’s basketball team received the No. 4 seed in the East bracket of the NCAA Tournament.
Seven losses in 12 games cost the Orange a higher seed and meant they had a difficult road to the Final Four, but it also may have been what fueled Syracuse all the way through a difficult bracket.
Hamilton’s Michael Carter-Williams and the rest of his Syracuse teammates played like a team possessed in the East Regional, dropping Montana, California, top-seeded Indiana, and third-seeded Marquette to secure its place in this weekend’s Final Four. Carter-Williams will lead the Orange into Saturday’s national semifinal against Michigan (8:50 p.m.).
“We took it with a chip on our shoulder,” Carter-Williams said the night before the Orange arrived in Atlanta. “We thought we were better. We really believed that and really showed that we were the best in the bracket.”
Known for its tight 2-3 zone, Syracuse, with Carter-Williams wreaking havoc at the top, played like the best defensive team in the country.
The Orange have allowed less than 46 points per game through the tournament, including surrendering only 34 against Montana and just 39 against Marquette.
In the process, Carter-Williams has solidified his place among the top players in the country.
His last two games have been incredible and they’ve shown the versatility he has as a 6-foot-6 point guard. He produced 24 points, five rebounds and four steals against Indiana, then followed that with an all-around gem against Marquette — 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and five steals.
“Nothing really changed besides mentally, and how hard we worked on the defensive end,” Carter-Williams said. “The great players step up and play great in big games. I’m just trying to make a name for myself and help my team.”