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Dominant 2-3 zone sends Syracuse to Final Four


Texas tops Michigan State, heads to Final Four

Syracuse's 2-3 zone was absolutely dynamite, baby! It drove Oklahoma wacky on Sunday. That's why Jim Boeheim is going to the Final Four for the third time.

Jim Boeheim
Jim Boeheim

The Sooners had difficulty getting the shots they wanted, and when they did get field goal attempts, they were challenged.

The zone, which was not a straight 2-3, was very active. Syracuse utilized multiple variations; doubling up on the baseline, doubling up on the wing, sometimes matching up and also some straight 2-3.

Dilemmas were created by it's activity and by how long Syracuse players are with its reach. Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Jeremy McNeil and Billy Edelin are all factors with their long reach.

Syracuse got a typical solid performance from Anthony, who set the tone early. He had a lot of help from Warrick, proving that this team has more offensive threats. And Gerry McNamara also contributed showing that they have balance.

Remember this; the Orangemen were unranked in the preseason coaches poll. Syracuse overcame adversity when Edelin was suspended for 12 games by the NCAA just prior to the opener against Memphis at Madison Square Garden, a game the Orangemen lost.

Hard work and solid defense led to an easy win over the region's top-seeded Sooners.

For Oklahoma, there will be no storybook return to New Orleans for Hollis Price and Quannas White, who played their prep ball in the Big Easy at St. Augustine's High School. They were on a mission, but it wasn't meant to be.

The Sooners had a difficult time against that Syracuse zone. Oklahoma was plagued by numerous turnovers in the first half, scoring a season-low 20 points before heading into the locker room. Then Syracuse applied the knockout punch with a quick 8-0 run to start the second half.

Also give credit to the sixth man for the Orangemen: the Syracuse fans. Believe me, it was a great advantage playing in front of a fantastic supporting crowd at Albany. The Orangemen got a big boost from the Orange Crush fans as it was a sea of orange and blue.

Syracuse returns to New Orleans, where it played in a classic vs. the Indiana Hoosiers in the 1987 Final Four. Keith Smart's acrobatic jumper gave the Hoosiers the dramatic W.

Ironically, that season Syracuse was also led by a dynamite diaper dandy, Derrick Coleman. Now they return to the Big Easy with the nation's premier freshman in Anthony. He has been an impact player from the first minute he stepped onto the court at Madison Square Garden against Memphis.

Syracuse's Boeheim continues to post winning seasons, and I couldn't be happier for a guy who courageously battled prostate cancer. A player and assistant coach at Syracuse, Boeheim is now in his 27th season as head coach of the Orangemen. Now he is a step closer to winning a national championship.

For Kelvin Sampson, it was another great season.Oklahoma was ranked in the top five most of the season and they won the Big 12 tournament championship. Unfortunately his team was out of sync early on Sunday -- all because of that 2-3 zone.

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