The feeling around the city of Syracuse, which includes fans and now players, seems to be a confident one that's predicting a victory for the No. 4-seeded Orange over the No. 4-seeded Michigan Wolverines Saturday night in Atlanta.
However, college basketball experts were given close to a week to breakdown tape and make predictions on who they think will be playing for the National Championship on Monday. In the end, there's a clear-cut favorite -- Michigan, which has been handed Seth Davis' kiss-of-death (via Dime Magazine).
One of the reasons I’m picking Michigan to win this game is just the fact that John Beilein had six days to prepare for it. On a 48-hour turnaround, it’s really difficult. But to have this much time to prepare for that zone, he’s familiar with it from his days at West Virginia, and that will certainly help their preparation for going up against it. But it will be very, very tricky because it is unique.
Syracuse fans can start hating Doug Gottlieb again -- though, I am pretty sure you never stopped hating him.
"I think that the way to play Syracuse is to play slow, but Michigan isn't really constructed that way -- they want to get up and down," Gottlieb said. "Due to the size of their guards and the mismatch at the three and at the four -- the small and the power forward -- I think Syracuse finally hits some jump shots and opens up their offensive weaponry to go along with their zone defense."
Jeff Goodman: Michigan
Trey Burke is the elite point guard in the country and should be able to get into the teeth of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. The Wolverines also have enough guys who can make shots from the perimeter, but the key will be penetration from Burke.
Gary Parrish: Michigan
But I'm not a big believer in the defense-wins-championships theory, at least not as it pertains to this sport. What I do believe, though, is that offense wins championships, and the nation has no better offensive team than Michigan.
Gregg Doyel: Syracuse
Listen, the bracket I posted online here at CBSSports.com has Michigan in the title game, so this isn't an anti-Michigan thing. This is just an acknowledgement that great defense tends to beat great offense in the Final Four
Jeff Borzello: Michigan
Matt Norlander: Michigan
What's more reliable: Michigan's No. 1-rated offense with the best player in college basketball, or the Syracuse zone that's shut down some pretty effective offensive teams over the past month? When you have the point guard to break down the fences and the size, strength, quickness and shooting around you, like Trey Burke does, I have to lean to Michigan.
Jerry Palm: Syracuse
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, both freshmen, will be asked to make good, quick decisions with the ball in the center of the zone. That could be where things fall apart.
Rob Dauster of NBC's CollegeBasketballTalk.com is also going with the Wolverines.
This game needs to be a classic.
We need it to be great.
Who Wins?: It’s going to come down to the final possession, which means that I’m going with Michigan. You don’t bet against Trey Burke in the clutch.
Meanwhile, SI.com's Andy Glockner was having this inner dialogue with himself on Twitter Saturday morning.
My gut keeps telling me Michigan, and I keep disagreeing with myself when I think about Syracuse's length and Boeheim's record vs Beilein— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 6, 2013
And in a game where it's Strength vs Strength and (relative) weakness vs weakness, there are a lot of dynamics to sift through. #drama— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 6, 2013
I keep seeing Burke/Albrecht struggling vs Cuse's size, UM not making enough 3s and Cuse hurting them offensively more than expected...— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 6, 2013
Then I see Michigan having more/better pros and McGary going nuts inside on the glass. I dunno. Not that it matters anyway...— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 6, 2013
It's just a fascinating game. Having a hard time thinking of one with so many different ways to think about it.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 6, 2013
On a positive note, ESPN writers, including Eamonn Brennan, John Gasaway, Andy Katz and Dana O'Neil, are all picking Syracuse over Michigan.
Here's Katz's take:
Michigan has the one player who could solve the zone in Trey Burke. But he needs help and players who can make the shots the Wolverines probably will get. The bigger problem for Michigan may end up being how the Wolverines defend Michael Carter-Williams or more so the most difficult matchup on the wing in C.J. Fair. This actually may be a case where Syracuse's offense wins the game.