68 teams have been whittled down to two, and tonight, Louisville takes on Michigan for the right to be called 2013 NCAA men’s basketball champions.
No. 1 Louisville (Midwest Region) vs. No. 4 Michigan (South Region)
Start time: 9:23 p.m. et
Broadcast team: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson
Michigan’s offence vs. Louisville’s defence: In terms of team strengths, it’s tough to ask for a better matchup. Michigan takes the third-most efficient offence in the country (1.13 points per possession) and an offence that was tested against Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone into the championship game, while Louisville boasts the third-ranked defence in terms of defensive efficiency (0.847 points allowed per possession). The Wolverines take care of the ball better than any other team in the nation, committing just 9.4 turnovers per game (they turned it over 10 times against Syracuse) while the Cardinals force the second most opponent turnovers per game at 18.4. Any way you look at it, this is a perfect matchup.
Having said all of that, I’m a firm believer in great defence overcoming a great offence and the general rule that defence wins championships, and on that note, I’ll take Louisville tonight.
(All stats courtesy of teamrankings.com)
Player of the year vs. player of the tournament: Michigan’s Trey Burke took home the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award as the NCAA player of the year for 2012-13, but there’s little debate that Louisville’s Russ Smith has been the player of the 2013 tournament so far, averaging 25 points per game on 50 per cent shooting through five games. If Smith goes for 20 points or more tonight, he’ll become just the fifth player in tournament history to score 20 or more in all six games of one tournament.
While Smith and Burke enjoy most of the hype, don’t sleep on Wolverines freshman big man Mitch McGary, who can stake his own claim to player of the tournament with a big game tonight.
Kevin Ware watch: Whether you want to or not, if the Final Four was any indication, be prepared to see and hear a lot about Kevin Ware tonight. The camera will frequently find itself on Ware sitting on the sidelines, the commentators are sure to discuss both the impact of Ware’s absence and the emotional lift of having him on the bench multiple times throughout the broadcast, and at the very end, win or lose, we’ll probably see a touching moment between an emotional Ware and a family member.
Don’t blame Ware for the overplay though. He deserves better after handling one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history like a champion.
Pitino chasing history: Rick Pitino is going to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year, but he can add another chapter to his story of greatness with a Louisville win tonight as the only coach to win a national championship with two difference programs. On that note, make sure you check out some of the best Pitino has to offer before the game tips off.