WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A few thoughts from Syracuse's 61-50 win over top-seeded Indiana in an East Regional semifinal Thursday:
Overview: Indiana was the first 1-seed to be locked on the bracket, according to the NCAA tournament selection committee. But the Hoosiers didn't live up to the moment when the games mattered most.
Fourth-seeded Syracuse dominated Indiana from start to finish. You can make an argument that the Orange have been as impressive as any team in the field so far this season. While Ohio State has been thrilling at times, with last-second shots to beat Iowa State and Arizona, Syracuse has been dictating everything to its opponents.
The Orange (29-9) manhandled Montana. They survived a late surge by hometown Cal in San Jose, but controlled the entire game. And then they suddenly turned the Hoosiers soft.
Indiana, which has now lost seven consecutive NCAA tourney games to the Big East, had not looked this poor since a stretch against Ohio State at home late in the Big Ten regular season. Indiana (29-7) couldn't get anything going offensively against the zone, scoring just 22 points in the first half -- the lowest point total of any half this season for IU. Big man Cody Zeller? He played small and struggled to find his footing in the lane. The performance was so pedestrian it might force Zeller to return for his junior season.
Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams sliced up the Hoosiers at will, almost toying with them at the end. Brandon Triche didn't have an issue getting to the lane. The Orange were effective on the backboards and forced turnovers on a consistent basis.
Indiana was in a scoring fest in a Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky last year in Atlanta. This wasn't even close to that performance by what should have been a much more prepared team. According to ESPN Stats & Information, IU's 50 points were the fourth-fewest ever scored by a 1-seed in the shot-clock era.
Syracuse wasn't supposed to be a Final Four team. But this could end up being one of Jim Boeheim's most effective late-season teams with the way it has come together in such a succinct way. Heck of a turnaround for the Orange.
Turning point: Six minutes into the second half, Indiana cut what was once an 18-point lead down to six on a Victor Oladipo 3-pointer. But Carter-Williams responded with a bucket to push it back to eight. The Orange didn't let up and continued to be the aggressor, increasing the lead to double figures. The margin ballooned to 16 at one point (56-40) on a Triche driving layup, which he finished off virtually untouched. Indiana's defense was soft throughout the night and the Hoosiers never again seriously threatened.
Star of the game: Carter-Williams was the best player on the court throughout the game. He finished with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals and found seems in Indiana's defense rather easily. He ran a sensational floor game (just two turnovers), made free throws and seemed to be in the right place all the time. MCW embraced this moment and played like a mature, elite point guard.
What's next: A date with Marquette on Saturday in the Elite Eight. This will be the first time since 2009 that teams from the same league will meet with a Final Four berth on the line (Villanova-Pitt, also from the Big East). Syracuse lost to the Golden Eagles 74-71 in Milwaukee back on Feb. 25, the teams' only meeting. Both of these teams are leaving the original Big East. Syracuse is off to the ACC while Marquette is staying in the new Big East, with six other members and Butler, Xavier and Creighton. These are two confident teams meeting Saturday. Syracuse can play as strong as Marquette, especially in the post, where the Orange are a bit undervalued.