Sports

2013 Final Four: Previewing the National Championship Game

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Louisville last won the Final Four in 1986 (Credit: Chris Steppig-Pool/Getty Images).

Louisville last won the Final Four in 1986 (Credit: Chris Steppig-Pool/Getty Images).

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Survival Saturday to Manic Monday: Few expected Wichita State to have such a close game against a Louisville squad, riding a 14 game winning streak. The Shockers began the game on an 8-0 run and led 47-35, with just over 13 minutes to go. Louisville outscored them 37-21 the rest of the way. Luke Hancock scored 15 of his 20 points during that stretch.

Michigan got off to a great start against Syracuse, building up an 11 point halftime advantage and getting buckets from seven of their players (Nik Stauskas went scoreless in the game). C.J. Fair brought the Orange back to life by scoring 17 points in the second half and slowly cutting the Wolverine’s lead down to four. James Southerland cut their deficit to one (57-56) with 48 seconds to play, but Trevor Cooney was unsuccessful in sending the game to overtime on Syracuse’s final possession (trailing 56-59).

Coaching Showdown: John Beilein faced Rick Pitino and Louisville, on three previous occasions when he was the head coach at West Virginia. Pitino holds a two game edge in the series, including a 93-85 overtime win in the 2005 Elite Eight.

The Wolverines went 10-22 during year one of the John Beilein era (2007-08) and have increased their win total for fourth consecutive seasons. Beilein was successful during his tenure in Morgantown, but never took the Mountaineers to the Final Four. He’s a career a journeyman who has had stops at schools like; Erie Community College, Nazareth, and Canisius, before arriving in power conferences like the Big East and Big Ten. Winning the Final Four would put him in the elite coach category, a feat only ten active coaches have accomplished.

Rick Pitino is already a coaching legend and has continued to add historic accomplishments to his legacy. Pitino is the now the fifth coach with at least seven Final Four appearances and to have lead multiple schools to the national title game. He could make history again, by becoming the first coach to win the Final Four with two schools and getting elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, on the same day.

History Lesson: Louisville leads the all-time series 2-0 against Michigan.

Most Recent Championships: The Cardinals last triumph in the Final Four came in 1986 when Pervis Ellison lead them to victory over Duke. Rumeal Robinson hit two crucial free throws in overtime of the 1989 championship game against Seton Hall, to secure Michigan’s first and so far only national title in program history.

Key Stats: Louisville’s four point victory over Wichita State was their second smallest margin of victory this season. They beat Illinois State (69-66) and Kentucky (80-77) by three points back in December.

Mitch McGary has scored at least 10 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in all five of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament games. He only put up that stat line in two regular season games.

Why Louisville Will Win: Russ Smith and Luke Hancock continue with their lights out shooting, as Gorgui Dieng and the Cardinal’s defense creates problems for Trey Burke and the Wolverine’s offense.

Why Michigan Will Win: Trey Burke shakes off his subpar performance against Syracuse, helping Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have another big game in the NCAA Tournament.

Overtime: Pittsburgh played every team that made the Final Four this season. The Panthers went 1-4 in those matchups, splitting their two games with Syracuse.

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