One Final Night, One Final Fight

Photo by David J. Phillip/AP Photo/ Posted by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)

After three straight weekends of exciting college basketball, it has come down to one final night.  One game, 40 minutes, two teams.  Remaining are the hot-shooting young-gun Wolverines of Michigan and the experience-laden champions of the Big East, Louisville Cardinals.  Both teams bring something different to the table, but have one common goal.  That goal is to be crowned the 2013 National Champion.

When the brackets were released four weeks ago today, the Louisville Cardinals were awarded the #1 overall seed, and when you get ranked that high, it is an expectation that you will be in the national title game.  To that expectation, the Cardinals have not disappointed.  Besides yesterday’s game against the Wichita State Shockers (who they still came back and beat by four points), Pitino’s Posse has cruised through the tournament.  The Cardinals have punished North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, Oregon and Duke, and by doing so they have shown how well rounded they really are.  Between Junior Russ Smith that is a natural-born scorer, fellow Junior Gorgui Dieng who can deny, dish and finish, and Senior Peyton Siva who is probably the best leader in all of college basketball, this team from Louisville is about as well rounded as you can get.  Along with the tripod of success, and the valuable bench scorer in Luke Hancock, it is the experience of the Cardinals that have brought them this far. Each of the four guys that I named has been here before and with Louisville being in the Final Four last year, that experience has taken them this far.  As well as the players making another run at it, they couldn’t ask for a more experienced coach.  Whether you like Rick Pitino or not, he may be one of the best to ever coach the game.  Consistently taking talent deep into the tournament has not only made those past players good, but has given him as much experience in high pressure situations as anyone could ask for.  It is that experience and talent that makes Louisville the favorite, but the true test will be to see if experience can trump youth.

Whether you knew it or not, the Michigan Wolverines were the youngest team to enter the field of 68, and it has been that youth that has brought them to the national title game. We all hear about the National POY in Trey Burke and Junior Tim Hardaway Jr., but it has been the diaper dandies that have stolen the show during March Madness.  Nik Stauskas has continued to improve on his shooting and Glenn Robinson III is finishing at the hole as good as anyone in college basketball, but it is Mitch McGary who has been the saving grace for the Wolverines. We all know that Michigan can shoot the ball from anywhere, but on those nights when the rim isn’t going their way, they would struggle immensely.  Once the 6’10” Mitch McGary staring playing like the big man that he is, it added another dimension to Michigan that they had been searching for.  The kid can also shoot from the floor, which makes him as deadly as anybody on the court at any given time.  When you watch this team play, you don’t see youth.  You see a team that feels that they can play with anybody in the country and because of that no care attitude, they have beaten Kansas, Syracuse and are now preparing to ruin Louisville’s title run.  In a way, Michigan is playing the spoiler, even though they know that they can beat anyone on any given night.

So when you sit down to watch the National Championship game on Monday night, remember what you are watching.  A team in Louisville that is riding on their experience and a Michigan team that could care less who they are playing, they just know that they can play the game.  Personally, I would take experience over erratic youth, but this one is tough.  When it all comes down to it, I picked Louisville to win it all in the first place, so I will stick to my guns.  Just don’t be surprised if the best NCAA Tournament so far is capped off by the best National Championship game to date.  Enjoy my friends!