FoxDen Hall of Famer
Registered: Sep 2011
NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Preview
The biggest game of the season goes Monday night with a number one seed in Louisville against the number four seed in Michigan. Louisville was the favorite to start the tournament and is the betting odds favorite in the championship game, but Michigan has held their own throughout March Madness and will be a formidable challenge. If you bet on the games, this is a great opportunity to play the biggest game of the season. This is one of the busiest times of the year in Las Vegas and the sportbooks. Check out the ATS Sportsline NCAA Title preview below with odds to win March Madness.
#4 Michigan (31-7 SU, 19-16-1 ATS, 21-15 OU) vs. #1 Louisville (31-9 SU, 20-16 ATS, 19-14 O/U)
Louisville: Away 16-7 ATS, Night: 12-1 ATS
Michigan: Away: 12-8 ATS, Night: 12-8-1 ATS
Key Betting Trends
4-0 ATS last 4 following a SU win.
5-0 ATS last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
16-5 ATS last 21 neutral site games.
27-11-1 ATS last 39 non-conference games.
12-5-1 last 18 matchups on the over bet in neutral site games.
10-2 ATS last 12 overall.
15-5-1 ATS last 21 Monday games.
19-7 ATS last 26 neutral site games.
8-2 ATS last 10 NCAA Tournament games.
1-6 ATS last 7 vs. Big Ten.
10-1 last 11 matchups on the over bet in non-conference games.
How did each team reach the NCAA Men's Basketball Final?
Michigan has dominated South Dakota State (71-56), VCU (78-53) and Florida (79-59) to reach the Final Four. Their toughest game came on March 29 against Kansas in the Sweet 16, when they came from 14 down to shock Kansas, 87-85 in overtime, getting 1. The Wolverines struggled from the field (39.6 percent) and from the foul line (11-of-20), but did enough to get by Syracuse giving 2 in the Final Four on Saturday, winning 61-56. Michigan's defense was superb, as they held Syracuse to 42 percent shooting and 3-of-14 from beyond the arc (21.4 percent). Redshirt freshman center Mitch McGary scored 10 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked two shots to lead the Wolverines.
Louisville had an even tougher struggled as a 9.5-point betting odds favorite in the first Final Four matchup. They were down most of the game but managed to pull out a 72-68 win over Wichita State. That was despite a poor performance from senior point guard Peyton Siva (5-0, 185), who had seven points and was just 1-of-9 from the field and 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. Junior Russ Smith (6-1, 165) is Louisville's best player who scored 21 points but had a case of the nerves, making just 5-of-12 from the foul line. He's shooting 81 percent from the foul line and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. But the biggest lift came from the bench, especially junior Luke Hancock (6-6, 200). The George Mason transfer actually started the, second half and propelled the team with 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Championship Game Personnel Matchups
These two teams have the best backcourts. Michigan's Trey Burke (6-0, 185) was the National Player of the Year and controls the tempo of the game. Michigan leads the country in fewest turnovers with 9.37 per game. They've broken the Havoc of VCU's stifling pressure and they face another tough defense against Louisville. The Cardinals rank second in the nation in steals at 10.8 and that's partially due to the quickness of Siva and Smith. Burke has the quickness to break the pressure but he'll need help from Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6, 205), a steady junior, who averages 14.6 points per game and has 89 assists with 69 turnovers. Guard Caris Lvert (2.4 points), who had eight big points off the bench for the Wolverines, may be called upon again to help rescue the Wolverines.
The key matchup in this game will be between McGary (6-10, 250) and junior Gorgui Dieng (6-11, 245). Dieng has showed that he's more than just a shotblocker as he can also make the 15-footer. So can McGary, who helped break the Syracuse zone with his passing from the foul line and his shooing facing the basket. Louisville must keep McGary off the offensive boards. They allowed 13 offensive rebounds against a smaller Wichita State team and that's not a good sign against athletic players like Dieng and Glen Robinson II (6-6, 210).
Michigan generally plays a four-guard lineup of Burke, Robinson, Hardaway and freshman Nik Stauskas (6-6, 190) next to McGary. Louisville can match up with Smith, Siva, Wayne Blackshear (6-5, 230) and Chane Behanan (6-6, 250) are athletic enough to defend the perimeter but expect Hancock to see more time over Blackshear, who played just nine minutes without scoring a point against Wichita State.
Both teams can big as Louisville offers freshman Montrezl Harrell (6-8, 235) and junior Stephan Van Treese (6-9, 245) are physical players that could see more time against McGary, sophomore Jon Horford (6-10, 250) and junior Jordan Morgan (6-8, 250).
NCAA Championship Game Statistics
Michigan averages 74.5 points per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. Louisville averages 74.3 points per game and shoots 45.6 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc. But in postseason, Louisville is shooting 53.2 percent in five NCAA tournament games.
Defensively, Michigan allows just 62.8 points per game, and teams to shoot just 42.4 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Louisville allows 58.3 points per game, and teams to shoot just 39.2 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Who has the Matchup edge?
Championship Game Betting Outlook
It doesn't get any better than this. This could be an absolute classic. On paper, these teams are close to even and the only pure advantage Louisville has is experience. They were in the Final Four last year, losing to Kentucky, 69-61, getting 8.5. They allowed Kentucky to shoot 57.1 percent and shot just 35 percent. Russ Smith struggled from the field, shooting just 4-of-15 coming off the bench but they did outrebound the Wildcats, 37-32. Michigan has a young team that has peaked at the right time. They aren't as talented as the "Fab Five" or even last year's Kentucky team but they are skilled and appear to have no fear. It also doesn't hurt to have a guard like Burke. The matchup between Burke and Siva will be the most important of the night. If Siva can force Burke to turn the ball over or at least force Hardaway to handle the pressure, it could be a long night for Michigan. But if the Wolverines can defend Louisville the way they defended Syracuse, this could be a night for the Wolverines.
04-08-13 06:55 PM
FoxDen Hall of Famer
Registered: Sep 2011
Michigan vs. Louisville
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (31-7) vs. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (34-5)
The 2012-13 college basketball season concludes Monday night in Atlanta when the top-seeded team in the tournament, Louisville, takes on fourth-seeded Michigan in the National Championship game.
The Wolverines have come a long way after finishing the regular season 1-9 ATS (5-5 SU) and then losing to Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, they have beaten their five opponents by an average score of 75 to 62, including three wins of 15+ points. With Saturday night's 61-56 win over Syracuse, the Wolverines are now 9-1 (SU and ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these teams by 10.9 PPG.
Louisville is also red-hot, but had a major scare on Saturday when it trailed by 12 points in the second half to Wichita State, a game it eventually won 72-68. The Cardinals have now won 15 straight games (11-4 ATS) by holding all 15 opponents to under 70 points, including limiting 10 of those opponents below 60 points. Louisville is also 19-1 SU (17-2-1 ATS) in their past 20 games in the month of March over the past two seasons, and 11-1 SU (8-4 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring its opponents by 15.4 PPG.
Michigan might be only a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there isn't much the team doesn't excel in. In addition to their 75.2 PPG (25th in nation), 48.3% FG (7th in D-I) and 38.3% threes (20th in nation), the Wolverines have the fewest amount of turnovers in the country (9.4 TOPG). They also lead the nation in Ast/TO ratio (1.55) and rebound pretty well too with a +3.2 RPG margin. They will need to do all these things well to beat a Louisville team that thrives on forcing bad shots and creating turnovers with its incredible defense. Michigan's defense is solid (62.8 PPG, 42.3% FG, 32.1% threes allowed) and is able to stay out of foul trouble (12.7 fouls per game, 2nd-fewest in D-I), by preferring not to take many chances in trying to force turnovers, as evidenced by a mere 2.8 BPG and 6.2 SPG, which rank 244th and 230th in the nation, respectively.
The Wolverines' backcourt of sophomore PG Trey Burke (18.5 PPG) and junior SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) has carried this team all season, but the duo shot a combined 5-of-24 from the floor (4-of-14 threes) against Syracuse. But Burke, who had five rebounds, three steals, four assists and just one turnover on Saturday, has a 3.13 Ast/TO ratio that ranks third in the country, and his 6.8 APG places 12th among the nation's leaders. Burke can also score in bunches, averaging 13.8 PPG in the NCAA Tournament with three games of 15+ points. Hardaway has shot a high percentage from behind the arc this season (38%), but is just 5-of-18 (28%) from long range and 11-for-40 (28%) on all FG attempts over the past three games. Michigan has become much more than a two-man team recently.
Six-foot-10 freshman PF Mitch McGary (7.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG) has been unbelievable in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 16.0 PPG on 70% FG with 11.6 RPG and 2.2 SPG. He also had a career-best six assists to go along with 10 points, 12 boards and two blocks in Saturday's win. Fellow freshman PF Glenn Robinson III (10.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG) played poorly in the Big Ten Tournament (6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but he has certainly stepped up in the NCAA's with 12.8 PPG on a robust 64% FG with 6.2 RPG. He was one of three Michigan players to score in double-figures in the Final Four win with 10 points and six rebounds (five offensive). Another freshman, SF Nik Stauskas (11.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is the team's best three-point shooter at 44% for the season, but he was 0-for-5 FG (0-for-4 threes) on Saturday. This was quite surprising considering he drained 7-of-8 shots (6-of-6 threes) for 22 points against Florida in the Elite Eight.
With Stauskas struggling on Saturday, two reserves played key roles for the Wolverines. Freshman Caris LeVert (2.4 PPG, 31% threes) scored eight points with 2-of-3 threes against Syracuse, while another freshman, SG Spike Albrecht (1.8 PPG, 50% threes), made the most of his four minutes by nailing both of his three-point attempts.
Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in scoring margin (+15.9 PPG) with 74.3 PPG of offense (32nd in nation) and 58.3 PPG allowed on defense (17th in D-I). The Cards outshoot opponents 45.6% FG to 39.2% FG (27th in nation), but they do not rely on the three-point shot like most Rick Pitino-coached teams do. Louisville makes just 5.7 threes per game (219th in D-I) on a subpar 32.9% clip (214th in nation). This team thrives on full-court pressure, using 10.8 steals per game (2nd in D-I) as part of 18.4 forced turnovers (also 2nd-most in nation) to get plenty of easy baskets. This defense has forced 16.4 TOPG in the NCAA's, which is a big reason why the team is scoring a hefty 79.0 PPG on 53.2% FG in the Big Dance.
Nobody has been scoring quite like SG Russ Smith (18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG), who is averaging 25.0 PPG on 50% FG in the NCAA Tournament. He's gotten a ton of points by driving to the hoop and drawing fouls, but after starting the tourney 32-for-40 (80%) from the line, he made just 5-of-12 free throws (42%) on Saturday. Smith has also tallied 15 steals in the five wins, to increase his season average to 2.1 SPG. Senior PG Peyton Siva (9.8 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.2 SPG) was outstanding in the Elite Eight against Duke when he scored 16 points (6-of-10 FG) with four assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes, but he was terrible on Saturday, making just 1-of-9 shots (0-for-5 threes) for seven points, three assists and two turnovers.
Luckily for Siva, junior swingman Luke Hancock (7.7 PPG) was the best player on the court in Saturday's win. He scored 20 points on 6-of-9 FG (3-of-5 threes) while adding four rebounds and two steals. After averaging just 5.7 PPG in the first three games of the NCAA's, Hancock has 15.0 PPG on 8-of-12 FG over the past two contests. C Gorgui Dieng (9.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG) was averaging 11.0 PPG on 20-of-24 FG (83%), 7.5 RPG and 2.5 BPG in the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, but did very little in 30 foul-plagued minutes with zero points (0-for-1 FG), six rebounds and two blocks in 30 minutes. His only problem has been foul shooting, where he's made just 2-of-10 FT in the past two games.
Freshman PF Montrezl Harrell (5.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG) provided quite a spark off the bench on Saturday with eight points (4-of-4 FG) and four rebounds in 11 minutes. Little-used SG Tim Henderson (0.8 PPG in 3.8 MPG) also hit two key three pointers to ignite the game-ending 37-21 run. This team also rallied against Duke in the Elite Eight after sophomore SG Kevin Ware (4.5 PPG) suffered a horrific broken leg late in the first half, beating the Blue Devils 50-31 after halftime, and are using Ware's misfortune as further motivation to capture their first NCAA Championship since 1986. Michigan's lone NCAA title came in 1989.
Louisville vs. Michigan
By Brian Edwards
The 2013 NCAA Tournament will culminate Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta where Louisville (34-5 straight up, 23-16 against the spread) and Michigan will collide for the national championship.
Just before midnight Eastern late Saturday night, most books opened the Cardinals as either four or 4.5-point favorites. After the first hour of betting, most betting shops had settled at four while the Mirage, Stations and several offshores adjusted to 3.5.
By lunch on Sunday, nearly all books had U of L favored by four with a total of 137.5 or 138. Gamblers can take the Wolverines on the money line for a +160 return (risk $100 to win $160).
For first-half wagers, Rick Pitino’s team is a two-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 63.5.
Speaking of Pitino, what a week this dude has had! (Good thing he decided not to retire after losing to Morhead St. two years ago, right?)
In the span of a week, Pitino’s 30-year old son, Richard, was hired as the new head coach at Minnesota. Also, the elder Pitino was selected to the Hall of Fame and his team rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to beat Wichita St. for the right to cut the nets down Monday night.
But wait, that’s not all! You see, Pitino owns horses and one of his ponies (Goldencents) won the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at 6/1 odds to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
In 2013, we call that #winning with a hashtag.
But for most of Saturday’s first national-semifinals matchup, it appeared as if Wichita St. was going to advance to the finals. Behind the brilliant play of Cleanthony Early, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, the Shockers led by 12 with 13:35 remaining.
Pitino’s vaunted defense wasn’t forcing any turnovers and U of L couldn’t produce buckets in order to set up its full-court press. It wasn’t looking good – at all.
Pitino was desperate and turned to walk-on Tim Henderson, who didn’t score a point in February and had only played more than eight minutes in a game once this season. Nevertheless, Henderson buried a pair of crucial 3-pointers to give the Cardinals some life.
Luke Hancock began to assert himself on both ends. Hancock would score 20 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.
He saved his most important play for last and, fittingly, it wasn’t one that would show up in the box score. Leading by three with 8.8 ticks left, Louisville’s Russ Smith missed yet another free throw. (Smith, who finished with a team-high 21 points, made only 5-of-12 at the charity stripe.)
When Wichita St.’s Ron Baker elevated to grab the rebounds, he lost his balance somewhat. Hancock noticed as much and instantly tied up Baker just long enough to prompt the official to blow the whistle and look to the possession arrow.
It was pointing Pitino’s way, just like everything else this week.
The Cardinals won a 72-68 decision but failed to cover the number as 9.5-point favorites. After only 51 points were scored in the first half, ‘under’ backers were feeling good. However, 89 second-half points allowed the 140 combined points to jump ‘over’ the 133-point total.
In the nightcap game, Michigan (31-7 SU, 19-16-1 ATS) got sloppy down the stretch but was nonetheless able to capture a 61-56 win as a 1.5-point favorite. The 117 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 128.5-point tally.
John Beilein’s team raced out to a 36-25 lead at intermission thanks to the passing of freshman center Mitch McGary and shooting of reserves Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. The Wolverines remained in control throughout the second half until crunch time when they started missing free throws and committing careless turnovers.
Syracuse’s James Southerland, who missed his first seven shots and was missing in action nearly the entire game, finally drained a trey to slice the deficit to 57-56 with 41 seconds remaining. Moments later, Michigan Trey Burke made one of two free throws for a two-point advantage.
At this point, Beilein was making offense-defense substitutions. Jordan Morgan, the junior center who had recently lost his starting slot and seen his minutes dwindle due to the emergence of McGary, was subbing in for defense.
With his team trailing by two, ‘Cuse senior guard Brandon Triche saw an opening and attacked the basket off the dribble. As Triche elevated to the rim, Morgan stepped in to take the charge.
It was very close, could’ve gone either way. Some pundits suggested that Morgan was still moving and had slid under Triche after he left the floor. Again, it was very close.
But the official whistled Triche for a charge. Morgan had taken another charge minutes before when the Orange were mounting its furious rally.
When Jon Horford made one of two at the stripe for a three-point lead, Syracuse had one last chance. However, Trevor Cooney took an ill-advised shot in traffic that was inside the arc. He missed and Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled down the rebound.
Morgan sprinted out while the ‘Cuse desperately tried to foul. The two-year starter, who has maintained a great attitude and hasn’t once complained about his diminished role, was hit in stride as he got behind the defense. Morgan, who only played five minutes, put an exclamation point on the victory with a slam with one second left.
You could make the argument that Morgan made the three most important plays of the game. And that, youngsters at home, is why you always remain a team player and keep a positive attitude even in the face of adversity.
Hardaway finished with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he disappointed his prop-bet backers who had taken ‘over’ 13.5 points. McGary produced 10 points, 12 boards, six dimes and a pair of blocked shots.
Michigan will be an underdog Monday night for only the sixth time this season. Beilein’s bunch has compiled a 3-2 spread record in the five previous ‘dog spots.
The Wolverines will need a much better effort from their star point guard Trey Burke, who made only 1-of-8 shots versus the ‘Cuse and missed two free throws at winning time.
The ‘over’ is 21-15 overall for Michigan, 19-14 overall for Louisville. The ‘over’ has hit in nine consecutive games for the Cardinals.
Tip-off on CBS is scheduled for 9:23 p.m. Eastern.
04-08-13 06:57 PM
FoxDen Hall of Famer
Registered: Sep 2011
Michigan vs. Louisville: What Bettors Need to Know
Michigan Wolverines vs. Louisville Cardinals (-4, 138)
The loss of Kevin Ware did not seem to limit the Louisville bench in the Final Four. Luke Hancock and the reserves will try to step up again when the Cardinals take on Michigan in the National Championship Game on Monday. The Wolverines knocked off another Big East school, Syracuse, in the Final Four and have the athletes to get up and down with Louisville as well as a point guard in Trey Burke that can dribble through the press.
Michigan has been a better-rounded team in the NCAA Tournament due to the emergence of Mitch McGary, who did not even join the starting lineup full time until the beginning of the Tournament. The freshman forward will lock up with Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan along the frontline in Monday’s Championship Game. Dieng struggled with foul trouble in the Final Four win over Wichita State but Luke Hancock jumped into the extra minutes vacated by Ware and his foul-prone teammates and responded with 20 points.
ABOUT MICHIGAN (31-7): McGary showed off his passing ability to help the Wolverines break through Syracuse’s press in the first half on Saturday finished with a season-high six assists to go along with 10 points and 12 rebounds. National Player of the Year Trey Burke struggled to 1-of-8 from the field against the Orange but will be the key to keeping up with Russ Smith and Peyton Siva on both ends while setting up Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. The Wolverines like to get out and run with Burke setting the pace and Hardaway and Robinson on the wings. Freshman guard Nik Stauskas had a tough semifinal but can stretch the defense with his shooting ability like he did while going 6-for-6 from beyond the arc against Florida in the Elite 8. Michigan is in the National Championship for the first time since the Fab Five made its second trip in 1993 and is the youngest team in the field of 68, with Robinson III, McGary and Stauskas all starting as freshman.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (34-5): The Cardinals have won 15 straight games going back to the regular season and have shown off their ability to win in different styles during the NCAA Tournament. After running Duke off the floor in the second half of the Elite 8, Wichita State forced Louisville to slow the pace and would not turn the ball over, leaving the Cardinals to play more of a half-court game. That turned out to be the ideal way to Hancock more involved, and the junior swingman helped Louisville overcome a 12-point second-half deficit. Of course, Smith added 21 points as well and will be a key to keeping Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson from slashing to the hole. Smith has scored at least 20 points in each of the five NCAA Tournament games and combines with Siva to form one of the fastest backcourts in college basketball and a tandem that jumps passing lanes and piles up steals defensively.
* Wolverines are 5-0 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games.
* Cardinals are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
* Over is 9-0 in Cardinals’ last nine overall.
* Cardinals are 1-6 ATS in their last seven vs. Big Ten foes.
1. Louisville is making its first trip to the National Championship game since winning the title in 1986, and coach Rick Pitino will be trying to win championships with two different schools (Kentucky 1996).
2. McGary is averaging 16 points on 69.8 percent shooting and 11.6 rebounds in the Tournament.
3. The Cardinals bench collected 34 points on Saturday despite missing Ware.
Favorites covered 10 of last 13 national title games; #1 seeds are 5-1 vs spread in last six finals when facing lower seed. Louisville was down 12 in second half Saturday; they're #2 in country at forcing turnovers, but Michigan is #1 in protecting ball- they hammered VCU, #1 team forcing turnovers. Wolverines were down 10 with 2:32 to go in regional semis, so both teams have stared down grim reaper. Cardinals won last 15 in a row since losing a five-OT game Feb 9; their last nine games went over total. Michigan is 3-2 as an underdog this season; they're 2-0 vs Big East teams, beating Pitt/Syracuse by 5 points each. Four Wolverine starters played 35+ minutes Saturday; only one sub played more than 5 minutes. Louisville played three subs 10+ minutes Saturday; they won despite a subpar game from Dieng (one shot, no points, 30 minutes). Last #1 seed to lose national title game to lower seed: '97 Kentucky, to Arizona.
04-08-13 06:58 PM
FoxDen Hall of Famer
Registered: Sep 2011
Final Four Pick: Michigan +4 vs. Louisville (Covers 56.6%)
In the most competitive championship game that we could see from the possible outcomes of Saturday's semifinals, Louisville wins the title a little more often than not, yet Michigan keeps it within the four point line. As noted for Saturday's games, the weaknesses that we anticipated would ultimately doom Wichita State - turning the ball over at an above average rate and not being consistently efficient shooting, particularly from outside, over the course of the season - are elite strengths of the Wolverines. Furthermore, while this line, once projected to be five or 5.5 points, has come down a point or so from the "look-ahead" expectations, what we saw on the court on Saturday night has closed the gap between these teams even more.
Michigan is 31-7 and has played the seventh ranked schedule in the country. The Wolverines finished the season ranked second in offensive efficiency in our College Basketball Power Rankings, yet would be first (by a large margin) at this point. Though receiving a four seed - and it would likely have been a five seed had Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship - the Wolverines ranked within our top ten every week of the season. They shoot the ball at a very high level (#10 in the nation in effective field goal percentage) and rarely turn the ball over (#1 in the country in fewest turnovers per possession). Over the last 13 contests, this team has averaged 73.5 points-per-game and has seen an offensive threat emerge on the inside in Mitch McGary who has averaged double-figures in points in that stretch and is shooting 69.8% from the field in the tournament.
Trey Burke gets the headlines and all five starters may go on to play in the NBA someday, but this team had glaring issues finding scoring threats inside during the regular season. McGary – a top recruit who almost went to Florida – has fixed that. He averaged just 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds during the regular season and Big Ten tournament and only played more than 25 minutes four times in the first 33 games of the year. In the tournament, McGary has bested Juvonte Reddick, Jeff Withey, Patric Young and a solid Syracuse front line in his last four games and has averaged 31.5 minutes with 15.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. This game will feature several marquee matchups of likely future pros - Trey Burke vs. Peyton Siva, Russ Smith vs. Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III vs. Chane Behanan, etc. - but no matchup may ultimately be bigger (literally and figuratively) than Mitch McGary going up against the Cardinals' best post defender in Gorgui Dieng.
Though offensively spectacular and incredibly talented with 4-5 future NBA players in the rotation, Michigan is a relatively weak defensive team, especially with shooting efficiency. Though the performance against Syracuse was one of Michigan's better defensive outputs of the season, the Wolverines still rank 140th in the nation (of 347 teams) in effective field goal percentage defense and 239th in forcing turnovers. They are pretty strong on the defensive boards and, as we saw benefit them down the stretch on Saturday, they remain the best team in the country at limiting fouls.
Louisville, which is 34-5 against the tenth ranked DI schedule, ended the season on a three-week run as the best team in the country in our Power Rankings and, after winning over Syracuse in the Big East Championship, was rewarded by the selection committee as the top overall seed in the tournament. Since being down to the Orange by 13 points at halftime in that game at Madison Square Garden, the Cardinals have out-scored opponents 451-330 over 5.5 contests (6-0 straight-up and 4-2 against-the-spread). Over the course of the season to this point, the Cardinals rank as the best overall defensive team in the country and are in the top five nationally in offensive efficiency and forcing turnovers. A rare team that has mastered multiple defenses, Louisville can fluster opponents with the press and shut down opponents in the half court on the same possession - usually.
That being said, the performance against Wichita State was not as dominant as most recent games. Louisville struggled to force turnovers against a below average team at protecting the basketball, gave up several wide open looks on which the Shockers capitalized early in the game and, though deep, still found itself in foul trouble. Ultimately, the depth came into play for the Cardinals as reserve guard Luke Hancock helped them overcome a combined 7-for-26 (26.9%) shooting day from Russ Smith and Peyton Siva (Siva and Smith were also just 10-of-18, 55.6%, from the line as well) with 20 points off the bench. With an even more difficult challenge - a team that does not turn the ball over and can score effectively in any way possible - facing Louisville on Monday, the Cardinals will not likely be able to overcome such issues and still win.
There are a few other items to watch in this game. First of all, officiating will likely be an important factor. Louisville played in a game on Saturday where everything was called and Wichita State made the bonus before the ten minute mark in the second half. Michigan faced the opposite challenge where nothing was called. The Wolverines rarely foul or get to the line and neither team shoots better than 70% from the free throw line, so both teams would probably prefer a clean game with few fouls. The more fouls, the more this game will come down to luck as a free throw shooting battle does not really favor one team over the other, though both teams have a few critical players - Burke and McGary for Michigan and Smith, Siva and Dieng for Louisville - they could not afford to lose to foul trouble. Secondly, this may be the game where Kevin Ware's injury makes a difference on the court. Though he only averaged 16.6 minutes a game, Ware has good length and athleticism for his size and has been very good at generating turnovers. He also was the only player for Louisville that shot 40%+ from three. Depth is still an advantage for Louisville, but the loss of Ware has made things far more even against a team like Michigan that also plays with nine players in the rotation.
Michigan's defense, or lack thereof, yields a win for Louisville more often than not, but it's the Wolverines offensive efficiency, most notably in avoiding turnovers, that keeps this game incredibly close throughout. In 50,000 games played of Louisville vs. Michigan, the Cardinals win over the Wolverines just 52.3% of the time and by an average score of 70.1-69.4. As four point underdogs losing by less than a point, Michigan covers the spread 56.6% of the time, which is just shy of a "normal" pick and would warrant a $44 play from a normal $50 player. Unless the line moves (likely to 138 or below), the total (currently 138.5) will remain appropriate and unplayable.
04-08-13 07:03 PM