It all comes down to this.
Five months of action, three weeks of Madness, and tonight college basketball will crown its champion. One of the more intriguing and unpredictable seasons in recent college hoops memory reaches its culmination with a truly fantastic matchup tonight in Atlanta.
So will Rick Pitino cut down the nets for the second time and bring Louisville its first title in twenty seven years? Or will first-time Final Four coach and his National Player of the Year, Trey Burke, bring Michigan their first title since Rumeal Robinson and Glenn Rice cut down the nets in 1989?
It should be a great game, and as a basketball fan and lover of college hoops, I hope it is another classic. But hopes and wants don’t have much to do with what WILL happen and what the better wager is… so let’s dig into this matchup and look for our winning edge.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Louisville Cardinals -4 (NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, Atlanta, GA)
Louisville entered this tournament as the favorite, and they shall enter the final night of the tournament as the same; the odds on favorite to cut down the nets. In a season full of upsets and chaos, as well as a tournament full of the same that generated a Final Four with two #4 seeds and a #9, the overall #1 seed still standing is a bit of an ironic surprise.
It took a valiant comeback against Wichita State in a pretty ugly game Saturday to survive and advance, but the Cardinals did. And though they are the favorite tonight, I think they actually have some matchup issues against Michigan. Peyton Siva is good, and certainly quick enough to stay in front of Trey Burke – but can he do it without fouling?? Siva and Russ Smith are seemingly in foul trouble in nearly every game – at least one of them has been all throughout the Big East and NCAA tournament. If they get into a similar predicament tonight, they are going to have some real difficulties with Michigan.
We saw what happens to Louisville when teams take care of the basketball and avoid live ball turnovers. Wichita State did just that for 35 minutes, and controlled the game rather comfortably during that span. Michigan is an even better ball handling team and has one of the better decision makers in the country orchestrating the offense. If Michigan can avoid live-ball turnovers, it forces Louisville to execute in a half-court or “scripted” offensive mode. It is something that everyone knew would be a struggle coming into the season, and has lived up to fruition.
For Michigan, it sounds cliché, but it will be a matter of knocking down shots. Tim Hardaway can run hot and cold, and will need to contribute in a major way. I expect big man Mitch McGary to continue to do what he has all tournament – wreak havoc – and be a major factor against Louisville’s smallish lineup (outside of Dieng, Blackshear and Behanen are their biggest starters).
I think Michigan will handle Louisville’s pressure and make enough shots to win the game. Getting four points is a nice cushion, but in the end, they have far more NBA talent and I think they will prevail.
Free Pick: Michigan Wolverines +4