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Magic March Madness: A look back at Carter-Williams leading Syracuse past top-seeded Indiana

Orlando’s point guard pushed his team ahead to the Elite Eight, defeating Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and the Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana v Syracuse Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

I think I share the same sentiments that all basketball fans around the world are feeling right now (really, all sports fans in general): this is the worst.

Not having NBA games to watch as teams position themselves for the playoffs, missing out on college basketball conference tournaments, and (by far the most disappointing) losing the chance to watch March Madness unfold in both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournaments - it’s all just so deflating.

I do believe the NBA, the NCAA, and all other competitive organizations/affiliates absolutely made the correct call effectively putting sports on hold as COVID-19 continues to affect people all over the world. The health and well-being of our professional athletes, collegiate athletes, their families, and just fans in general, is of far greater importance at this time than any sporting event.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still really miss basketball, especially in a month like March. Because we all probably have countless fond memories of moments made during both the college basketball conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament, I thought that it might be a good time (without any other kind of basketball going on) to bring the best of those two worlds together for Magic fans:

a) Current Magic players &
b) their most memorable March moments playing at the collegiate-level

For some avid college basketball fans, these moments may still be familiar in your sports recall. For some younger Magic fans, or possibly fans that just don’t follow college basketball as closely as the NBA, this could be content you’re experiencing for the first time (which could be pretty rad).

I hope you enjoy our “Magic March Madness” re-watch series!

Who: Michael Carter-Williams, sophomore guard at Syracuse University
What: Sweet Sixteen (Regional Semifinal) against Indiana University
When: March 28th, 2013
Stats: 24 points (9-19 FGA’s, 3-5 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds, 4 steals

Carter-Williams, who was born and raised in Hamilton, Massachusetts, attended a boarding school in Rhode Island for his last three years of high school (St. Andrew’s School). The lead guard grew over six inches in high school and blossomed into a four-star recruit by his senior year.

He played sparingly his freshmen season at Syracuse, logging more than 20 minutes in a contest only twice, and failing to appear in 11 games.

With guards such as Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine gone, Carter-Williams exploded during his sophomore season (2012-2013), starting all 40 games for coach Jim Boeheim. He led the nation in both total assists and steals (also led the Big East in assists per game, steals per game, and steal percentage) en route to being named the Big East’s Most Improved Player.

Syracuse entered the 2013 NCAA Tournament as a four-seed. They enjoyed a 47-point drubbing over Montana in their opening round contest, and then held off the University of California in what amounted to a two-possession margin of victory (66-60). That set up a Sweet Sixteen (Regional Semifinal) match-up with the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, led by future NBA players Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller.

I thought this exercise would work out best if I just transcribed my thoughts/reactions of the game using an informal list. Video time-stamps are included with my comments.

  • (5:17) Carter-Williams utilizes a very high screen from the top of the key and buries a three-point field goal as his defender goes under the pick.
  • (7:18) Yogi Ferrell, a freshmen in this game, made the correct decision and gave the ball up in transition to Oladipo charging down the left side of the floor. As Oladipo was attempting to gather his last dribble before throwing down another dunk (he just had a steal and dunk in transition moments earlier), Carter-Williams picked the future second overall selection’s pocket and headed the other way with the basketball.
  • (17:29) Carter-Williams gets the basketball coming off a curl at the left elbow. As we’ve seen in Orlando, he’s able to use his superior size/length as a lead guard to get right to the front of the rim for an easy layup.
  • (46:10) The Syracuse guard gets his first field goal of the second half off a beautiful drive starting well beyond the top of the key. Carter-Williams is being shadowed/blanketed in the second half by Oladipo. The All-Big Ten guard pressured Carter-Williams on this play with an aggressive attempt at face-guarding him. Carter-Williams goes by him off the dribble, navigates through the lane, and finishes the reverse layup from the left-side of the rim with his right-hand. Both Lundquist and Raftery thought he traveled, oh dear.
  • (51:05) Carter-Williams gets the in-bound pass deep in the left corner of the floor. His defender is heavily shading him to his right, giving up the baseline (for some reason). The Syracuse guard starts to drive baseline, but it looks like he sensed that Zeller was going to slide down and help, so he quickly crossed over with his dribble back towards the painted area and finished over the smaller defender.
  • (54:20) Oladipo returned to the game after a brief exit due to a hard fall he suffered diving for a loose ball out of bounds. Playing in his hometown (Washington D.C.), Oladipo immediately went back to his role of defending Carter-Williams. This time, Carter-Williams took the Hoosier star guard to his left and directly to the basket. Oladipo defended him well, but Carter-Williams won the battle, making a difficult runner (and using the glass to do so).
  • (55:45) “It’s his night.” Carter-Williams stepped into a three-point field goal at the top of the key off a drive and kick-out from a teammate (and set a career-high in points in the process) which put Syracuse up by 14 points. It proved to be a defining moment in the contest - it gave the Orange enough of a cushion to cruise the rest of the way.

Carter-Williams and the Syracuse Orange would go on to defeat Marquette in the Elite Eight, winning the East Region and advancing to the Final Four (Atlanta, GA) before falling to the Michigan Wolverines.

But for one night in the NCAA Tournament against Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and the Indiana Hoosiers, Michael Carter-Williams was “Magic” in March.

You can follow Aaron Goldstone on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.