It’s finally game day. This has been the longest two days since Michigan held on over Syracuse, but today is finally time to figure out who will be crowned the National Champion. But before we get to the actual game lets look back at how each team got here.
- #16 North Carolina A&T 79-48 (Round of 64)
- #8 Colorado State 82-56 (Round of 32)
- #12 Oregon 77-69 (Sweet 16)
- #2 Duke 85-63 (Elite Eight)
- #9 Wichita State 72-68 (Final Four)
Louisville came into this tournament as the number one overall seed and left no doubt in the tournament committee’s mind that they made the right choice in the first two games, winning a combined 161-104. Rarely does a team come into the tournament as the odds on favorite, then become the emotional favorite in the same tourney, but the Cardinals pulled that feat off after the horrific injury to guard Kevin Ware.
Now this team has started to run into some struggles, against their last three opponents (even if the Duke score doesn’t show it) before running away in the second half. Peyton Siva and company have been the best in the second half by a long margin behind the shut-down defense that they can play when they want to.
Coach Rick Pitino can run a frenzied press defense and can also run a more lax but equally effective half-court defense. But the best part of that defense is 6’11” junior Gorgui Dieng, who nearly single-handedly ended Michigan State’s season last year in the tournament.
- #13 South Dakota State 71-56 (Round of 64)
- #5 VCU 78-53 (Round of 32)
- #1 Kansas 85-83 OT (Sweet 16)
- #3 Florida 79-59 (Elite Eight)
- #4 Syracuse 61-56 (Final Four)
Michigan was a sneaky pick to be upset in the Round of 64. Then the Round of 32. Then had little chance against Kansas. Couldn’t ride the momentum against Florida. Can’t break the zone against Syracuse. And now here we are, can’t take down the might Cardinals.
Personally, if I have learned anything it’s don’t discount this batch of Wolverines. While most of the press between games has been will Webber come and will the Fab Five all be together in Atlanta, but who cares. This team has been phenomenal in the tournament after being very streaky during the regular season.
Then, enter Mitch McGary into the starting lineup and everything has changed. McGary has played out of his mind in the tournament and has brought a whole new level to this team on both sides of the ball.
Player of the Year Trey Burke has looked shaky in the first half before turning it on against Kansas. Against Syracuse, Burke only had seven points, but was able to contribute in other ways with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block to impact the game without scoring.
This is a great matchup between the perceived best team vs the team of destiny. Will the Cardinals be able to set up their great defense or will Michigan be able to run up and down the court? Can Michigan jump out to a big lead like against Florida or will Louisville come from behind to turn a close game into a rout?
The biggest key in my eyes is Trey Burke getting involved early and often in this game. I’m not saying that he has to score 40 points, but he needs to be involved by distributing if his shot is off or by slowing down Peyton Siva on the defensive side of the ball.
Will the inspiration of Kevin Ware wear off for the Cardinals, who seem to be running on adrenaline for most of the time after the injury. The key for Louisville is hitting the shots when they get them. Michigan has become a good defensive team and a better rebounding squad with the addition of McGary to the starting lineup.
I think that Michigan will come out scoring in bunches like against Florida, but the second half surge of Louisville will keep the game close at the end, but in the end I think that it will be Michigan winning their first national championship since 1989, 79-75.
Curtis thinks that it will be even closer than me. With Trey Burke scoring 15 points in the game, including the final bucket with 11 seconds left to lead Michigan to a 72-71 victory over the Cardinals.