Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Syracuse Orange (-3.5, 128)
The conference that is disintegrating due to the realignment chaos is assured of having a team in the Final Four. Big East mates Syracuse and Marquette square off Saturday in Washington D.C. in the East Regional final, marking the first time since 2009 that teams from the same conference will compete for a Final Four berth. The fourth-seeded Orange dominated top-seeded Indiana on Thursday while third-seeded Marquette thrashed second-seeded Miami.
The Golden Eagles defeated Syracuse 74-71 on Feb. 25 in the lone regular-season meeting. Marquette squeezed past Davidson and Butler in its first two NCAA Tournament games, which made the rout of the Hurricanes particularly impressive. “They dominated a team that won the regular-season ACC and the ACC tournament,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “Tremendous team and Marquette dominated the game.” Syracuse frustrated Indiana 61-50 after posting earlier tournament victories over Montana and California. Golden Eagles junior guard Vander Blue knows his team will be the underdog. “We’re used to people not giving us credit, saying we were no good,” Blue said. “If you were to look at our roster, no one would expect us to be an Elite Eight team.” The last time conference foes battled for a Final Four spot also featured two Big East squads – Villanova defeating Pittsburgh.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
ABOUT MARQUETTE (26-8): The Golden Eagles are led by Blue, but feature a wealth of contributors who are capable of stepping up at any time. Junior forward Jamil Wilson had 16 points and eight rebounds against Miami, while Blue and junior reserve forward Davante Gardner contributed 14 points apiece. In fact, Gardner’s 11.4 average is second on the squad behind Blue’s 14.8. Wilson averages 9.9 points, senior guard Junior Cadougan averages 8.6 and senior wing Trent Lockett contributes 7.2 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds. A blue-collar mentality sometimes leads to Marquette being overshadowed by more talented teams. “We want to keep being the hunters,” Blue said. “We don’t want to be the hunted.”
ABOUT SYRACUSE (29-9): Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams had a spectacular game against Indiana with a career-best 24 points to go with six rebounds and four steals. “This was the best he’s played all year,” Boeheim said. “He was tremendous. He was the difference in the game on offense, clearly.” Williams ranks fourth on the Orange at 12.1 points per game while averaging a team-best 7.5 assists. He has 104 steals, one of three players nationally with 100 or more. Junior forward C.J. Fair averages a team-high 14.4 points and also grabs a team-leading seven rebounds per game, while senior guard Brandon Triche (13.8) and senior forward James Southerland (13.4) also score in double digits.
* Orange are 0-5 ATS in their last five Saturday games.
* Over is 4-0 in Golden Eagles’ last four games following a win.
* Underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Orange are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings.
1. Gardner scored 26 points in Marquette’s February win over the Orange. Fair scored 20 to lead Syracuse.
2. Syracuse is attempting to reach the Final Four for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony-led team won the 2003 national title.
3. Marquette is also vying to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, when Dwyane Wade was the team’s star player.