• WHEN/WHERE: 8:23 p.m. Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
• TV/RADIO: CBS (Ch. 5); WHB (810 AM)
|G||10||Tim Hardaway Jr.||6-||Jr.||14.6|
|F||1||Glen Robinson III||6-6||Fr.||10.9|
All eyes will be here. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas against Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and the Cardinals pressure. Wichita State handled Louisville’s trapping press better than any team this season. In the game’s first 33 minutes or so the Shockers had only four turnovers. But Louisville eventually got to Wichita State and the pressure helped turned the game late. But statistically, Michigan takes care of the ball as well as any team in the country. Burke didn’t have a good shooting game against Syracuse, with one field goal in eight attempts. Siva struggled offensively against Wichita State. This game should be played at a pace that favors offensive flow.
Michigan’s Mitch McGary has changed the arc of the program. He’s arguably been the Wolverines best player in the postseason, and changes the way teams play defense. Against the Orange, McGary had 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng didn’t play against Wichita State and was foul prone, but he’ll be the second shot-blocking specialist Michigan has seen in four games. Kansas’ Jeff Withey had five blocks against the Wolverines but McGary had a bigger impact on the game. McGary-Dieng could be the game’s critical matchup. If McGary has big numbers, that likely means Burke is having a good game against the Louisville guards.
Michigan got off to a great start against Syracuse with Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert each popping in a pair of threes in the first half. Michigan also will need Albrecht’s ball-handling ability against the Louisville pressure. Forward Jordan Morgan came up with the biggest defensive play against Syracuse, when he took a charge to preserve a two-point lead with 19 seconds remaining. Louisville misses Kevin Ware, the reserve guard who broke his leg against Duke. It impacts Louisville’s depth. But Luke Hancock was huge against Wichita State with 19 points and seldom-used Tim Henderson chipped in two critical free throws. Hancock can be a difference-maker.
Rick Pitino goes for his second title, John Beilein his first. Both are masters at the in-game adjustment and there’s no edge here. Football stadium atmospheres don’t favor either fan base because the noise is muted. There might be less pressure on Michigan. Louisville, the only top seed in the Final Four, was expected to be here from the outside. Michigan, a fourth-seed is playing like there’s nothing to lose. If the Wolverines aren’t often disrupted by the Cardinals’ pressure – like they weren’t against VCU _ they have the offensive ability to see this through.
In a year of unpredictability in college basketball, keep going against the grain. Michigan 71-68 in a classic.