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 January 29th, 2013

The last time that we ran our college basketball power rankings, the Louisville Cardinals were on top with a 15-1 record. Boy how things change since Louisville isn’t even in our top 10 following three straight losses at the hands of Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. The Cardinals finally stopped the bleeding with a victory over Pittsburgh, but it’s a little too late now. As for who’s number one in this week’s edition of the GTbets NCAA basketball power rankings, you can see the answer below.

1. Kansas Jayhawks (18-1) – Since losing their second game of the season to Michigan State, all Kansas has done is win. Just last week they won on the road against 11-ranked Kansas State, and they also have recent victories over Texas (road), Oklahoma and West Virginia (road). Super-frosh Ben McLemore (16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) might be the top pick in the NBA Draft if he decides to leave. But for now, he’s busy trying to lead the Jayhawks to a national title.

2. Michigan Wolverines (19-1) – A couple of weeks ago, Michigan was dealt their first loss on the road against Ohio State. However, they came back strong by winning at 9th-ranked Minnesota, against Purdue and at Illinois. This team features a very strong lineup that includes Trey Burke (17.4 PPG), Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.9 PPG), Nik Stauskas (12.7 PPG) and Glenn Robinson III (12.1 PPG).

3. Indiana Hoosiers (18-2) – Indiana has hovered around this spot in our power rankings for a while. They fail to move up because of a recent loss to Wisconsin; but a victory over Michigan State in their last game keeps the Hoosiers from falling back. Victor Oladipo (13.9 PPG) continues to shoot lights-out from three-point territory (54.8%), while Cody Zeller is taking care of the inside (16.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG).

4. Syracuse Orange (18-2) – Villanova knocked off yet another powerhouse team when they grabbed a 75-71 OT victory over Syracuse. However, that doesn’t drop the Orange much in our eyes since they beat Villanova earlier in the year and have recent wins over Cincinnati and Louisville. Nobody scores a ton of points for Syracuse – Brandon Triche leads the team with 14.9 PPG – but they have a nice balanced approach that sees four players average at least 12.6 PPG.

5. Florida Gators (16-2) – Since dropping a home game against Kansas State on December 22nd, Florida has now won eight straight contests. The most impressive victory during this stretch was a 31-point drubbing of Missouri. Based on the way that they’ve been playing, we don’t think the Gators will have any difficulty winning the SEC. It helps that they only play 16-ranked Ole Miss once this year too.

6. Duke Blue Devils (17-2) – The Blue Devils impressed everybody early on with quick victories over Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota and Kentucky. However, they’ve since been exposed after an 8-point loss at NC State and a 27-point beating at Miami. Duke will no doubt be looking forward to a rematch when 19th-ranked NC State comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

7. Butler Bulldogs (17-3) – The Bulldogs are leading the mid-majors charge in our eyes after a thrilling one-point win over 8th-ranked Gonzaga. Unfortunately, they had a letdown the next game and lost by one point at LaSalle. But this certainly doesn’t erase impressive victories over North Carolina, Marquette and Indiana. Expect Butler to have at least a three seed when the NCAA tournament begins in March.

8. Oregon Ducks (18-2) – Oregon makes an appearance in our power rankings for the first time this season. They’ve beaten some quality opponents during this stretch too, including Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State. The Ducks make sure that everybody gets the ball as six players are averaging 8.9 PPG or more. Freshman Damyean Dotson leads the scoring attack (11.7 PPG), while Arsalan Kazemi has been a monster on the boards (9.6 RPG).

9. Michigan State Spartans (17-4) – Like Oregon, MSU is making their first appearance in our power rankings. We don’t know if they’ll stay long because the Big 10 is extremely brutal this year. However, they’ve certainly done enough to impressive the college hoops world with recent wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State. And we won’t fault them for a close loss at Indiana in the past game.

10. Arizona Wildcats (17-2) – Pac-10 play has been hard on the Wildcats since they’ve lost to UCLA and Oregon in January. And although it’ll be hard for Arizona to win the Pac-10 now, they are still one of the best teams in the nation. We fully expect them to do well come March Madness because they’ve been getting very strong guard play from Mark Lyons (14.9 PPG, 3.1 APG) and Solomon Hill (13.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG).

College Basketball Power Rankings for Jan. 14th, 2013

Now that conference play has opened up throughout college basketball, many of the top teams have found the competition a little tougher. In fact, there are no longer any unbeaten teams left following Duke’s upset loss to NC State. And the Blue Devils weren’t the only high-ranked team to lose recently since a few other clubs were dealt their first loss as well. Following the recent shakeup, here’s a look at who’s sitting where in our power rankings.

1. Louisville Cardinals (15-1) – Louisville was ranked number four in our last power rankings, but they move up to the top spot following losses by three teams ahead of them. Junior guard Russ Smith (18.9 PPG) has led this club to recent victories over Kentucky, Providence, Seton Hall and South Florida. A couple of tough games loom ahead with Connecticut on the road and Syracuse at home.

2. Duke Blue Devils (15-1) – Following 15 wins to open the regular season, Duke finally dropped a road game against NC State. However, this eight point loss certainly doesn’t erase previous wins over Louisville, Kentucky, Wake Forest and Ohio State. Five Blue Devils are averaging double digits right now, led by senior Mason Plumlee (17.6 PPG, 11.4 RPG).

3. Indiana Hoosiers (15-1) – The Hoosiers continue to play well after a loss to in-state rival Butler last month. Their most recent conquest includes hanging the first loss on eighth-ranked Minnesota. Plenty of landmines await in the Big Ten schedule, but the prospects look good for Indiana to win their conference. G Victor Oladipo (13.8 PPG) continues to be lights out from the perimeter for Indiana (68.3 2P%, 48.0 3P%).

4. Kansas Jayhawks (14-1) – A three-point loss to Michigan State on November 13th represents the lone blemish on Kansas’ schedule. The only thing holding the Jayhawks back from a better ranking is that their lone impressive win remains beating Ohio State. Freshman G Ben McLemore has stepped up to lead this team with 16.4 PPG.

5. Michigan Wolverines (16-1) – After opening Big Ten play up with three wins, Michigan dropped a road game against Ohio State. Unfortunately, things won’t get any easier as the Wolverines travel to Minnesota this Thursday. Both Trey Burke (18 PPG) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.1 PPG) had off games against OSU, and they’ll look to get back on track against the Gophers.

6. Arizona Wildcats (15-1) – Arizona represents yet another top team that received its first loss in January. They dropped a four-point game on the road to a respectable 14-2 Oregon ball club. The Wildcats have another difficult upcoming game as they travel to face in-state rival Arizona State (14-3). This team does have the advantage of a hot Mark Lyons though (18.3 PPG over past four games).

7. Syracuse Orange (16-1) – While the Orange sit seventh in our power rankings now, they have an excellent chance to move up with a win at number one Louisville. Sophomore G Michael Carter-Williams had done a great job of finding teammates all season (9.4 APG), and he’ll look to tally plenty more assists against the Cardinals this Saturday.

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-1) – Since losing to Illinois on December 8th, the Bulldogs have now rattled off seven straight wins – including a road victory over former #22 Oklahoma State. Looking ahead, the Zags have a very intriguing road game against 13th-ranked Butler this Saturday. Junior C Kelly Olynyk (18.7 PPG) is a huge reason why Gonzaga should win this tough contest.

9. Creighton Bluejays (16-1) – Looking at Creighton’s remaining schedule, it’s certainly not improbable that they could finish as a one-loss team heading into March Madness. Of course, going undefeated in conference play is a tall order for any club. Some of the quality victories for this team include wins over Wisconsin, Arizona State, Nebraska and California. Junior F Doug McDermott (23.6 PPG) is a strong favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year award.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-2) – While Minnesota may have two losses on the year, dropping games to Duke and Indiana are nothing to be ashamed of. And so far, the Golden Gophers have tallied victories against Memphis, USC, Michigan State and Illinois. G Andre Hollins has really stepped up in his second year to lead this team with 14.4 PPG.