It’s never easy to pick a championship game simply because there are so many things that go into it. What kind of adversity has a team faced? What kind of streak is a team on? How difficult was the schedule a team played? Who has the ‘star’ player and who doesn’t? These are but a sampling of questions one has to take into account and another would certainly be the head coach.
In the case of the 2013 NCAA College Basketball National Championship Game to be played tonight in Atlanta, all of the above questions apply but there is one thing an odds-maker cannot control and that is destiny.
You can make arguments that Michigan is a team of destiny. They had a terrific first two-thirds of the season and were in contention for a regular season Big Ten Championship until the final second of the regular season finale at home against Indiana but it wasn’t to be. It capped a stretch of 5-5 heading into the Big Ten Tournament where the Wolverines one their opening game and then were destroyed in a second half blitz by Wisconsin who isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut.
The late season swoon led many, including myself to think this just wasn’t Michigan’s time yet. Were they too soft on the inside defensively? Was there too much pressure on Trey Burke to carry the load? Was John Beilein in over his head? I concurred on all counts and I willingly admit that I underestimated the Wolverines.
Louisville certainly fits the bill as a team of destiny. They’ve had to deal with the injury and aftermath for Kevin Ware. They rallied in the Big East Tournament to win it for the second straight year and Head Coach Rick Pitino has a horse getting ready for the Kentucky Derby. Sometimes you’re just living right and right now the Cardinals are.
Much like Michigan though, the ‘Ville hit a speed bump during the long season when they dropped three in a row and four out of seven between late January and early February but the last loss in that span was the grueling five-overtime loss to Notre Dame which was the last time the Cards lost.
Louisville has now won 15-straight games heading into the title tilt with Michigan. Just as the Cards faced adversity in the regional final against Duke, they faced it again when they were down by 12 points Saturday evening to Wichita State. This time Louisville rallied not behind Peyton Siva or Russ Smith but behind a guy from the bench named Luke Hancock and that speaks a lot to me heading into tonight.
Why Louisville Wins… Michigan is a four-point underdog tonight and I think that’s a fair number. Both teams were far from great in the semis and I think the stage may have gotten to both teams. Therefore I expect a little bit better play from both schools. With that said, Michigan has an unusual task in the span of 48 hours and I think it plays into the favor of Louisville.
Last week, the Maize and Blue had to prepare for the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone and now they have a much shorter amount of time to prepare for the Cards’ full-court pressure and man-t0-man defense. I’ll be very curious to see how much zone Coach Pitino chooses to play because he’s been known to do it with this team.
With that said, Michigan will present problems for the Cardinals with their athleticism and outside shooting which was lacking at times on Saturday. If Michigan can handle the pressure and get the Louisville guards in foul trouble early they have a great shot but I really do believe in destiny and I think it matters this time. I like the Cards to get National Title #3 with a 73-68 win over the Wolverines.