Louisville vs. Michigan in 2013 NCAA Championship

trey-burke-michiganJust a couple of hours ago, the Michigan Wolverines were able to hold off the scrappy Syracuse Orange to advance to their first NCAA title game since 1993. Interestingly enough, the ’93 title appearance no longer counts due to violations associated with former Michigan booster Ed Martin.

The Wolverine’s opponent in the 2013 NCAA Championship game will be the Louisville Cardinals, which advanced after surviving a tough 72-68 contest over the Wichita State Shockers. For Louisville, this will be their first title game since 1986, when Pervis Ellison led them to victory.

rick-pitinoSeeing as how neither of these teams have experienced a title game within the last two decades, it’ll definitely be interesting to see who ends the drought. Of course, if coaching experience has anything to do with the matter, the Cardinals definitely have an advantage in this department. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has been to six Final Fours with three different teams, and he guided the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats to the national championship. That said, if anybody can prepare Louisville for the title game, it’s Pitino.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Michigan coach Jim Beilein is chopped liver though. He’s guided teams to a collective eight NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight trip for the 2005 West Virginia Mountaineers.

This isn’t a game that’ll solely be won or lost based on coaching resumes though. Star players are going to shine in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, which makes it worth discussing some players to keep an eye on in this contest.

Michigan Wolverines to watch

Trey Burke (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG) didn’t exactly have an outstanding game against the Orange after shooting 1-for-8 and scoring 7 points. However, the Wolverines wouldn’t be here if not for the super sophomore, who scored 23 second-half points against Kansas in the Sweet 16 – including a sensational 28-footer to tie the game in regulation. Likely a future NBA lottery pick, Burke will get another chance to improve his stock with an outstanding title game.

tim-hardaway-jrTim Hardaway Jr. (14.6 PPG) is another player who’ll be looking to shoot better after going 4-for-16 against Syracuse. The junior did hit three 3-pointers and dish out a team-high five assists though and should bounce back against Louisville.

Great shooting was not exactly a theme for Michigan last night since Nik Stauskas (11.5 PPG, 44.9 3P%) also went 0-for-5. He only played 18 minutes total, and backup Caris LeVert stole a lot of his minutes.

First-year player Glenn Robinson III (11.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG) looked anything but a freshman in his first Final Four. He connected on 5 out of 7 field goal attempts and added five offensive rebounds for the Wolverines. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep this same poise in the championship.

Mitch McGary (7.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) is another freshman who’s done well under the pressure. In fact, McGary has thrived in the NCAA tournament since he’s averaged 16.0 and 11.6 RPG – way up from his season averages. But can he keep this production up against Louisville’s 6’11” stud Gorgui Dieng?

russ-smith-louisvilleLouisville Cardinals to watch for

One of the best guards in the country, Russ Smith has definitely proved this in the Cardinals championship game run. He’s averaged 25 PPG in the NCAA tournament and hasn’t scored less than 21 points in any of the five games. But he’ll have to do better than his 6-for-17 shooting performance against Wichita State if he hopes to lead Louisville to victory one more time.

Lucky for Smith, junior G/F Luke Hancock hit 6 out of 9 of his shots and scored 20 points off the bench. He was a big part of helping Louisville overcome a 12-point second half deficit to Wichita State and could play another huge role in the title game.

gorgui-diengInterestingly enough, star center Gorgui Dieng (10.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG) was a non-factor in this contest. In 30 minutes of play, he took one shot and missed it, while chipping in six rebounds and two blocks. The Cardinals HAVE to get more production out of him against Michigan.

Sophomore forward Chane Behanan (9.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG) was pretty steady in last night’s contest – as he’s been throughout the tournament. Behanan scored 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds.

Who will win the 2013 NCAA Championship?

When the NCAA tournament started, many picked Michigan to be an early upset because of their obvious youth. However, the three starting freshman have been quite mature up to this point, and sophomore Trey Burke has played like a seasoned senior.

Of course, they’ll face the ultimate test in Louisville since the Cardinals have a lineup full of sophomores, juniors and seniors. And this experience should do them well against a very young Michigan squad. Rush Smith should especially give the Wolverines fits, as he’s done to most other opponents.

But in the end, Michigan will have too many weapons for the Cardinals to deal with. McGary and Dieng will cancel each other out in the middle, while Burke, Hardaway Jr., Stauskas and Robinson III will overwhelm the rest of Louisville’s lineup.

Final Score: Michigan 76 – Louisville 68

College Basketball Power Rankings for March 15th, 2013

kelly-olynyk-1In the power rankings that we ran last week, Gonzaga moved into the top spot after ending the regular season on a 12-game winning streak. Since they’ve added two more wins in the West Coast Conference tournament, things don’t look to change for the Bulldogs. In fact, for the first time in weeks, things won’t dramatically change for most of our top 10 college basketball rankings – although this isn’t to say that there’s no switching around.

1. Gonzaga (30-2) – Last week, the Zags ascended to the AP’s number one ranking for the first time in school history. So how did they handle the pressure? Well Gonzaga responded by easily winning both of their WCC tournament games – including a 14-point victory over St. Mary’s in the WCC Finals. As expected, future NBA lottery pick Kelly Olynyk came up big with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the finals. As a whole, this team should be well rested and ready for the NCAA tournament.

2. Duke Blue Devils (27-4) – Duke may not have ended the year on an impressive streak like Gonzaga; however, they are pretty close to the Bulldogs in our opinion – especially after beating their rival North Carolina by 16 points on the road. The Blue Devils shot 55% from the field in this game and buried plenty of shots from the outside to doom the Tar Heels. Regardless of their performance in the ACC tournament, Duke should have a number one NCAA tournament seed wrapped up.

cody-zeller3. Indiana Hoosiers (26-5) – A star is expected to come through when their team needs them. And that’s exactly what Cody Zeller did against Michigan with the Big 10 title on the line. Not only did the 7-footer make the go-ahead layup with 13 seconds left, but he also altered Trey Burke’s last second shot. With a 72-71 victory, the Hoosiers guaranteed themselves an outright Big 10 title and can also grab a top NCAA tournament seed too. They finish up their regular season with a home contest against Illinois.

4. Louisville Cardinals (27-5) – No team has risen as much as Louisville over the past two months. They now end the season where they began – right near the top. Despite playing in a very tough Big East, the Cardinals were able to rattle off eight straight victories and grab a conference title. During this stretch, they swept Notre Dame and beat 12th-ranked Syracuse to finish the year strong. Gorgui Dieng (10.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG) and Chane Behanan (10.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG) will provide the Cardinals with a very strong inside presence in the postseason.

5. Georgetown Hoyas (25-5) – The Hoyas move up two spots from last week after destroying Syracuse in a 61-39 route and beating Cincinnati 62-43. Next up is a third game against Syracuse – a team which will no doubt be looking for some revenge after losing two games to the Hoyas by a combined 33 points. Georgetown’s star Otto Porter Jr. (16.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG) will be looking to carry Georgetown past the Orange since he’s averaging 19.0 PPG over the past five contests.

otto-porter-jr6. Kansas Jayhawks (27-5) – An ugly 81-58 loss to Baylor drops Kansas one spot in our power rankings. Bears senior guard Pierre Jackson was huge in this game after scoring 28 points and dishing out 10 assists. Fortunately, the Jayhawks had no Pierre Jackson to deal with last night as they dominated Texas Tech 91-63. Kansas’ freshman star Ben McLemore was big in both recent games after scoring 23 points against Baylor and 24 points against Tech.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (23-7) – The Buckeyes jump back into our top 10 after a five-game winning streak. The most impressive win during this run is a 9-point road victory against Indiana. The Buckeyes also defeated other tough squads like Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois too. Junior guard Aaron Craft (9.7 PPG) has picked up his scoring lately since he’s averaged 12 PPG during the five game winning streak.

trey-burke-michigan8. Michigan Wolverines (26-6) – Ever since February began, Michigan’s season has hit several stumbling blocks. After opening the year 19-1, the Wolverines have gone 6-5 amidst a brutal Big 10 schedule. They don’t exactly get a breath of fresh air to end the regular season either because they face 22nd-ranked Wisconsin tonight. Despite suffering tough losses in the last month and a half, we like Michigan’s chances in the NCAA tournament with a bevvy of stars in Trey Burke (19.2 PPG), Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.8 PPG), Nik Stauskas (11.6 PPG) and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 PPG).

9. Kansas State Wildcats (26-5) – One team that we really expect to do well in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament is the Kansas State Wildcats. After all, this team has played very strong against clubs they are supposed to beat. The worst team that K-State has lost to all year is Iowa State, which is 22-10 on the season. The Wildcats dropped a tough road game against Oklahoma State on March 9th, but they rebounded with a 17-point win over Texas.

10. Michigan State (24-7) – After losing three straight contests in a murderer’s row lineup of Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans closed out the regular season with victories over 22nd-ranked Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Wisconsin win was quite impressive since Michigan State won by 15 points. Keith Appling (13.5 PPG) played well in both of these contests as he scored 19 points against the Badgers and 16 points against Northwestern.

College Basketball Power Rankings for Dec. 17th, 2012

While the Duke Blue Devils claimed the top spot in our college basketball power rankings last week, they had yet to wrestle the top ranking away from Indiana in the polls. However, the Hoosiers dropped an overtime game to their instate rivals – the Butler Bulldogs – and they’ve given way to Duke. With the spoilers out of the way, let’s cover NCAA basketball’s top 10 teams.

1. Duke Blue Devils (9-0) – We haven’t seen Duke on the court in a while, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less deserving of the top spot. The Blue Devils have defeated some of the nation’s best teams in Ohio State, Louisville and Kentucky.

2. Michigan Wolverines (11-0) – Michigan has quite a trio in Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas. These three have helped the Wolverines get off to their best start since the 1988-89 season, when Glen Rice led Michigan to a national title.

3. Syracuse Orange (9-0) – Thanks to Michael Carter-Williams, who’s averaging 10.8 APG, the Orange rank third in both points and assists. Syracuse is also quite good on the other side of the ball since they’re holding opponents to just 56.1 PPG.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1) – OSU is our favorite one-loss team at this point because their only loss involved blowing a second half lead at Duke. Currently they’re dominating teams like Northern Kentucky, UNC-Asheville and Long Beach State while readying for a big game against Kansas next week.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini (12-0) – The pollsters aren’t showing Illinois a lot of respect right now since they’re ranked 10th. However, a big win over previously-unbeaten Gonzaga still has us high on the Illini. They have a huge test coming up against 12th-ranked Missouri.

6. Arizona Wildcats (8-0) – Arizona leap-frogs a few teams after defeating unbeaten Florida in an amazing comeback. The Wildcats were down by 6 points with 55 seconds left, but forced three turnovers and eventually won on a Mark Lyons’ layup.

7. Louisville Cardinals (9-1) – Despite losing starting center Gorgui Dieng to injury, the Cardinals were able to defeat rival Memphis on the road. However, it wasn’t easy since they had to rally from a 16-point deficit. Russ Smith is playing excellent lately as he’s averaging 21.8 PPG over the past four games.

8. Indiana Hoosiers (9-1) – While some might say that Indiana doesn’t deserve to drop from number two to number eight in these power rankings, we just don’t like how the Hoosiers lost to Butler. They were thoroughly outrebounded and outplayed during the loss. But with freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin now eligible to play, things figure to get better for this team.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0) – The Bearcats remain stagnant in our rankings simply because other teams won some big games and moved up. They have a huge game coming up against crosstown rival Xavier. Can junior shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick (19.3 PPG) lead Cincinnati past the Musketeers?

10. Florida Gators (7-1) – Florida should have moved up to the number two spot; but they couldn’t hold onto a 6-point lead against Arizona with less than a minute to go. It was definitely a pretty bad way to lose a game, and they’ve fallen quite a bit in our power rankings.

College Basketball Power Rankings for Nov. 10th, 2012

On the eve of a new college basketball season, there is no unanimous number one team. However, the Indiana Hoosiers come the closest to being a preseason favorite since they’ve grabbed 43 of a possible 65 first place votes. But Louisville and Kentucky are also highly-rated coming into the 2012-2013 NCAA basketball season. Plus there are several other teams worthy of national title consideration, as you’ll see in our first college basketball power rankings.

1. Louisville Cardinals – Following a Final Four run, the Louisville Cardinals are back with a strong returning group of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. With so much returning and some new faces in Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock, the Cardinals look poised to make anoher deep tournament run this year.

2. Indiana Hoosiers – The Hoosiers are coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and big regular season win over Kentucky last year. With Christian Watford and Cody Zeller returning to dominate the paint for Indiana, big things are expected in the upcoming season.

3. North Carolina State – Often a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, the Wolfpack should be leading college basketball’s most prestigious conference this year since they return both C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown.

4. Kentucky Wildcats – The Wildcats added an eighth championship to their decorated basketball history after a 67-59 title game win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Unfortunately, they lose a massive amount of talent, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis. Coach John Callipari had no trouble reloading though after picking up top-flight recruit Nerlens Noel.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes – Ohio State has big shoes to fill after losing  Jared Sullinger and William Buford. However, Deshaun Thomas looks poised to break out this season while Aaron Craft should provide some steady leadership at both ends of the court.

6. Kansas Jayhawks – Few people expected the Jayhawks to make it all the way to the NCAA title game. Now championship expectations are there since veterans Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson will combine with super freshmen Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore.

7. Michigan Wolverines – Following a disappointing second round exit in the NCAA tournament, Michigan returns with a strong nucleus that includes Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Some of the incoming class could provide immediate help as well.

8. Syracuse Orange – Syracuse may have lost some key players, but they still figure to be a powerhouse with Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland returning.

9. Florida Gators – The loss of Bradley Beal to the NBA is no doubt a huge blow to Florida. However, Patric Young is one of the best centers in college basketball and Kenny Boynton will certainly help ease the loss of Beal.

10. Duke Blue Devils – Maybe this isn’t Coach K’s best Duke team to open the season. But we certainly see a potential top 10 club with Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton returning as starters.