3 pointers: Keys for Syracuse to beat Indiana in Sweet 16

first_img Published on March 26, 2013 at 1:01 am Syracuse’s matchup with Indiana in the Sweet 16 on Thursday will be the Orange’s toughest game so far in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana finished the season ranked fourth in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and went 14-4 in the Big Ten, arguably the top conference in the country. The Hoosiers also boast two of the best players in the country in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. All that being said, the Hoosiers aren’t unbeatable. They have six losses, four of them against unranked teams. Here’s a look at the three biggest things Syracuse needs to do on Thursday in Washington, D.C., to take down Indiana:Contain Zeller, OladipoA quick look at Syracuse’s nine losses this season reveals a common pattern. The Orange’s frontcourt duo of Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita were outplayed on both ends of the floor.Temple took down SU for its first loss back in December, thanks largely to a big day from 6-foot-9 forward Anthony Lee, who scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Fast-forward to its second loss a month later to Villanova in Philadelphia, when the Wildcats’ 6-foot-10 center Mouphtaou Yarou notched 14 points and 16 boards. A pair of losses down the stretch saw more of the same – first, when 6-foot-8, 290-pound Davante Gardner bullied Syracuse down low to lead Marquette, then when Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng controlled the paint with 11 points and 14 rebounds.Christmas and Keita are arguably in for their toughest assignment yet on Thursday: containing Indiana’s All-American 7-foot big man Cody Zeller. Zeller leads the Hoosiers in scoring with 16.7 points per game and rebounding with eight boards per game. He’s capable of taking a game over, as he did in the regular-season finale against Michigan when he scored 25 points, including the game-winner, and grabbed 10 rebounds. But he’s also not unstoppable, as Temple showed Sunday, limiting him to 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting in the Hoosiers’ six-point victory.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe big man can score with his back to the basket, and he can face up and put it on the floor. It could be a long day for SU if Zeller gets Christmas and Keita into foul trouble.And that’s only a part of the challenge for the Orange.SU will also need to keep Zeller’s All-American teammate Victor Oladipo off balance to pull the upset. The athletic wing, who hit the game-sealing 3-pointer against the Owls, averages 13.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s among the best defenders in the nation and was the Sporting News Player of the Year.Keita must continue strong playDay after day, week after week, the treatment was the same. Mike Hopkins, an assistant coach, harped on Baye Moussa Keita to be stronger, to not back down, to play aggressively and attack the rim.But day after day, week after week, those urges — some heated, others laced with profanity — failed to trigger more inspired play on the court. Keita averages 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.That all changed, though, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, when Keita emerged as a dominant force inside during a redemptive win over Georgetown. He scored 13 points, shot 7-for-7 from the free-throw line and grabbed eight rebounds.He was finally everything Hopkins wanted, and the result was a Syracuse victory.Now, as Syracuse prepares to play No. 1 Indiana in the Sweet 16, Keita’s role has become vital. He has surpassed starting center Rakeem Christmas in terms of consistency, and without a strong performance Thursday, it will be difficult for the Orange to advance to the Elite Eight.With the Syracuse offense predicated on scoring from its big three of C.J. Fair, James Southerland and Brandon Triche, as well as passing by point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the added contributions from Keita take pressure off of the regular threats. His points and rebounds also make the opposing defense respect the Orange inside.He had 11 points and seven rebounds in the win over California, converting seven of 10 free throws in the process. If Syracuse has Final Four aspirations, that’s exactly the type of performance he must continue.Syracuse must keep offensive rhythmThis is probably the most important thing Syracuse needs to do against Indiana on Thursday. The Hoosiers are one of the best offensive teams in the nation. They’re third in points per game with 80 and seventh in field-goal percentage at 48.6. Indiana is going to shoot, it’s going to score and it’s going to do so from both the inside and outside. To combat that, the Orange needs to bring a sterling offensive performance to Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Syracuse started making shots in the Big East tournament and carried that right into the NCAA Tournament.Sort of.The Orange was brilliant against Montana in the second round. It shot 51.9 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the arc. Against California, Syracuse went 39.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from the arc. That might not cut it against Indiana.Sure, the Hoosiers are going up against a zone defense they haven’t seen before, but there’s a reason they were ranked No. 1 in the nation for a good portion of the season – their prolific offense.James Southerland needs to continue to light up the arc; Brandon Triche needs to carry his momentum to the Sweet 16; Baye Moussa Keita needs to continue to give Syracuse a strong presence inside; and, of course, C.J. Fair needs to continue to hit his trademark mid-range jumpers.No one needs to be reminded that Syracuse’s offense has been pretty inconsistent this season. Right now, though, the Orange is shooting the ball well. Thursday night against Indiana would be a bad time to lose that momentum.-compiled by The Daily Orange Sports staff Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more