Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Luke Hancock, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva Lead Louisville to National Championship over Michigan, 82-76

College Hoops Players of the Day for Monday, April 8, 2013

(1) Louisville 82 (4) Michigan 76 - The Louisville Cardinals won their third national championship with an effortful performance over the Michigan Wolverines.

Trey Burke scored seven early points to pace the Wolverines, but picked up a second personal foul nearing the mid-point of the first half. Mitch Albrecht came on for Burke, scoring 16 points to forge a 12-point lead for Michigan. Resolute, Louisville returned fire with four straight three-pointers by Luke Hancock and took back the advantage on a fast-break dunk by Mortrezl Harrell with time running down in the first half. Glenn Robinson III made two free throws with 2.5 left on the clock to retake the lead by a point, 38-37, at the break.

Both teams made rainbows in the first half. Michigan was 6-for-11; the Cardinals went 5-for-8 from beyond the arc.

Louisville established a lead early in the second half and maintained it as time wound down. Michigan cut the lead to four points on several occasions, but could not get any closer.

Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan were unstoppable in the second half. Siva finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Behanan was impressive in the paint, scoring 15 points and snagging 13 rebounds.

Hancock didn't see the ball much in the second half, but finished with 22 points for the Wolvernines on 5-for-6 shooting, including a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range.

Trey Burke was the game's leading scorer, with 24 points.

Louisville was out-shot by Michigan, 52-48%, but a seven rebound advantage on the offensive boards and an overall 31-26 edge on the boards allowed Louisville more looks, and, eventually, more scores.

Head coach Rick Pitino, just elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, became the first coach to win national championships with two different teams - having led Kentucky to the title in 1996.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 4/8
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 6-4 Duke (3) Miami (2) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 7-5 LaSalle (3) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 3-6 Iowa St. (1) Kansas (2)
Big East (8) 13-7 Marquette(3) Louisville (6) Syracuse (4)
Big Ten (7) 14-7 Mich. St. (2) Michigan (5) Indiana (2) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (3) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 5-5 Oregon (2) Arizona (2) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 4-3 Mississippi (1) Florida (3)
Missouri Valley (2) 5-2 Wichita St. (4) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-5 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-2 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 6-21 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (2)

Monday, April 08, 2013

NCAA Championship Final Breakdown: Louisville Cardinals vs. Michigan Wolverines

NCAA National Championship Final

Louisville Cardinals (34-5, 14-4 Big East) vs. Michigan Wolverines (31-7, 12-6 Big Ten)

Louisville head coach, Rick Pitino, is going after his second NCAA Championship, just days after being informed that he will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.

Pitino's first championship came at Kentucky, when the Wildcats captured the 1996 title with a 76-67 win over Syracuse.

This year's Louisville squad has some remnants of that '96 championship team, in terms of speed and size, though the Kentucky team was arguably a superior offensive force, with the likes of Tony Delk, Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty, while this Louisville group relies heavily on pressure defense and the skills of their backcourt duo, Peyton Siva and the electrifying Russ Smith, who is averaging a cool 25 points per game in Louisville's five tourney wins.

Another advantage Louisville may have over the Wolverines is their size in the front court and rebounding prowess. Gorgui Deing and Chane Behanan can dominate the paint, along with reserve, Montrezl Harrell, who should get ample floor time, as he did in the Cardinals' ripping, 72-68, win over Wichita State in the national semifinal, the four-point victory the closest any team has come to beating Louisville through five rounds. Deing is also a fearless shot-blocker, which will make Michigan's penetration a daunting task.

The Cardinals enter the fray riding a 15-game winning streak dating back to February 9 and are favored by 3 1/2 points over Michigan.

Louisville has won two national titles, in 1980 and 1986. Tis is their 38th tournament appearance, ninth time in the Final Four. The Cardinals have a 64-40 record in the NCAA tournament.

For the Wolverines, it's their first trip to the championship game since 1993, when Steve Fisher guided the "Fab Five" to their second straight title game loss (77-71 to North Carolina) and their first championship appearance under head coach John Beilein, who is in his first Final Four as a coach. The youngest team in the tournament field, Michigan has surpassed all expectations, but is loaded with hoops-pedigree talent in the likes of Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jon Horford.

Michigan won their only national championship in 1989, when the Wolverines topped Seton Hall, 80-79, in overtime. It is their 23rd tourney appearance, with a 43-22 record and their sixth time in the Final Four.

Point guard, Trey Burke, who is expected to be named the national player of the year, will have most of the responsibility for breaking the Louisville press and getting the ball into the lane or out to the wings for three-point shooters, Hardaway and Nik Stauskas. A tireless performer, Burke has played 35 or more minutes in each of Michigan's five tournament games, totaling 35 assists, with a high of 10 in the Wolverines' 87-85 overtime win against Kansas, the South region's #1 seed.

While the Wolverines have ample outside shooting, the difference-maker may be freshman Mitch McGary, who has emerged as a force in the paint throughout the tournament. Besides his inexperience, the problem for McGary is that he will be mostly alone amongst the Louisville trees in the low post. He'll need help from Robinson on the boards. Burke and Hardaway are also good rebounding guards, who will have to contribute.

Either team has a legitimate shot at the championship crown. It will be up to Louisville to disrupt Michigan's fast flow offense, while the Wolverines must guard against turnovers and domination in the paint by the Cardinals.

The match-up of point guards Siva and Burke should be a great game-within-the-game. The contest may come down to just how well Russ Smith performs, as he is likely the most dangerous player on the floor in a game loaded with future pros.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

It's a Date: Louisville to Meet Michigan Monday for National Championship; Luke Hancock Powers Cardinals

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, April 6, 2013

National Semifinals

(1) Louisville 72 (9) Wichita State 68 - The Shockers gave Louisville everything they had, but the Cardinals erased a 47-35 second half deficit to roar back late in the game, grab a five-point lead and hold on for the win. Luke Hancock was sensational. coming off the bench for Louisville, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the second half on 6-for-9 shooting with three treys and five of seven from the foul line.

Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 21, though he was erratic at 6-for-17 shooting (4-for-11 on threes); Cleanthony Early led all scorers with 24 points and was also the game's high rebounder with 10. Hancock filled out his game with four boards, two assists and a pair of steals.

Wichita State was able to build their lead by not turning the ball over, giving it up just four times through the first 34 minutes. Six late turnovers turned the tide for the ball-hawking Cardinals.

The Shockers cut the lead down to two points in the final minute, but could not get any closer, as Hancock and Smith settled matters at the foul line.

(4) Michigan 61 (4) Syracuse 56 - Six first half three-pointers and seven offensive rebounds helped the Wolverines establish a 36-25 lead at intermission. The scoring came from Michigan's bench: Spike Albrecht was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc; Caris LeVert was 2-for-3 from distance.

Syracuse cut into Michigan's lead in the second half, but could never tie the game nor take the lead, cutting it to one point on James Sutherland's three-pointer with 42 seconds left, but Michigan made enough free throws and Syracuse could not covert in the waning seconds - both of their starting guards, Michael Cater-Williams and Brandon Triche having fouled out.

Michigan's freshman forward, Mitch McGary, had a monster game, scoring 10 points with 12 rebounds (five offensive), six assists and two blocks.

CJ Fair led the Orange and all scorers with 22 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. led Michigan with 13 points. The Wolverines shot 40% for the game; Syracuse was only marginally better, at 42%, but the Orange made only 3 of 14 from three-point range, 21%.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

2013 NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview: Shockers, Cardinals, Orange and Wolverines

With two Big East teams - Louiville, Syracuse - in the national semifinals and the Missouri Valley's Wichita State crashing the party as a #9 seed out of the West region, the stage is set for the final weekend of college hoops. Michigan represents the Big Ten from the South region.

Both semifinal games will be played on Saturday, April 6, with the championship game slated for Monday night, April 8. In the opening match-up at 6:09 pm EDT, #9 Wichita State meets the tournament's #1 overall seed, Louisville, champions of the Midwest region.

The late Saturday game between Syracuse, the #4 seed from the East, and Michigan, the #4 seed from the South, will follow, roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. The tentative tip time is 8:49 pm EDT.

Following are a selection of tournament notes and stats for the four teams remaining. Each has won four straight games in the tourney.

Louisville has claim to the nation's longest winning streak at 14 straight. Their last defeat was on February 9, in a 104-101, 5 OT loss at Notre Dame. The other three teams have each won just four straight, as all of them fell in their respective conference tournaments. Syracuse was hammered by Louisville in the Big East championship game, 78-61. Wichita State lost to Creighton, 68-65, in the MVC final, but gets the last laugh as the big dance survivor. Creighton was ousted by Duke in the third round, winning just one game, 67-63, over the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Michigan lost to Wisconsin, 68-59, in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals on March 16. The six days between their last loss and the opening of the tournament may have given the Wolverines some needed rest, propelling them to the Final Four.

Overall Records
Louisville (33-5, 14-4 Big East)
Michigan (30-7, 12-6 Big Ten)
Wichita State (30-8, 12-6 MVC)
Syracuse (30-9, 11-7 Big East)

Tournament Margins of Victory
Louisville: average: 21.75 (largest, 31, NC A&T, second round)
Syracuse: average: 20.00 (largest, 47, Montana, second round)
Michigan: average: 15.50 (largest, 25, VCU, third round)
Wichita State: average: 10.50 (largest, 18, Pittsburgh, second round)

Leading Scorers
Louisville: Russ Smith, 26.0 ppg
Michigan: Mitch McGary, 17.5
Wichita St.: Malcolm Armstead, 15.5
Syracuse: CJ Fair, 13.75

Leading Rebounders
Michigan: Mitch McGary, 11.5 rpg
Louisville: Gorgui Dieng, 7.5
Wichita St.: Cleanthony Early, 7.0
Syracuse: CJ Fair, 6.0

Assist Leaders
Michigan: Trey Burke, 7.8 apg
Louisville, Peyton Siva, 5.0
Syracuse, Michael Carter-Williams, 4.8
Wichita St.: Malcolm Armstead, 3.8

Michigan: Tim Hardaway Jr., 10-20, .500
Syracuse, James Southerland, 7-19, .368
Wichita St., Ron Baker, 6-15, .400
Louisville, Russ Smith, 6-19, .316

Free Throws Made, %
Louisville: Russ Smith, 32-40, .800
Wichita St.: Ron Baker, 20-23, .870
Syracuse, Brandon Triche, 17-23, .739
Michigan, Trey Burke, 11-11, 1.000

Tournament appearances
Louisville: 38
Syracuse: 35
Michigan: 23
Wichita St.: 9

Final Fours
Louisville: 9
Michigan: 6
Syracuse: 4
Wichita St.: 1

Louisville: 2 (1980, 1986)
Syracuse: 1 (2003)
Michigan: 1 (1989)
Wichita State: 0