If all Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams needed to worry about lately was basketball, that would have been plenty.
Could he generate enough offense to help the defense-first Orange get to the Final Four?
Could he take advantage of the NCAA Tournament spotlight to improve NBA teams’ opinions of him?
There also was this on Carter-Williams’ mind, though: His family home in Hamilton, Mass., was hit by a major fire two weeks ago.
“When I’m on the court, or when I’m in practice, all my focus is on my teammates and the team,” the sophomore said. “Outside of basketball, I think I can just be there for my family as much as I can. But when it comes time for basketball, everything else is kind of irrelevant. I’m just focused on the team.”
Carter-Williams did a terrific job of dealing with one thing at a time, so much so that he was chosen as the top player in the East Regional for helping No. 4 seed Syracuse beat No. 1 seed Indiana, then 3 seed Marquette, to make it to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2003 NCAA championship.
After a dismal 1-4 stretch to end the Big East regular season, Syracuse (30-9) has won seven of its last eight games and will play Michigan (30-7) — the South Regional’s No. 4 seed — in the national semifinals at Atlanta on Saturday.
“We’re starting off the games real well. Once we get a lead, we try to build on it. We don’t look back. We don’t get comfortable. We always put the pressure on the other team,” said Carter-Williams, who played a year at Hamilton-Wenham Regional before transferring to St. Andrew’s in Rhode Island.
“If they’re going to come back, they’re going to have to do something spectacular.”