Apr 7, 2013, 9:16 PM EDT
ATLANTA — On Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Michigan will be taking on Louisville for the right to call themselves the 2013 national champions.
All things considered, the way that the NCAA tournament and the Final Four has played out could not have been more perfect, because this national title game should be thrilling. I think there’s an argument to be made that this is the most anticipated national title game since 2005, when North Carolina and Illinois squared off as the nation’s two best teams. (To be fair, the finals in 2007, between Greg Oden’s Ohio State and defending champion Florida, and 2008, when Bill Self and John Calipari squared off for a ring, can make a case as well.)
Think about it.
Louisville has been dominant for pretty much this entire season. They were picked, along with Indiana, as the favorite to win the national title way back in October, and with the exception of one three-game stretch in the middle of January, they really haven’t faltered. They were the favorite prior to the start of the Big East tournament, and they became an overwhelming favorite entering the NCAA tournament after using a 44-10 second half run to erase a 16 point deficit against Syracuse in the title game.
They were a preseason top five team. They were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point during the season. They entered the NCAA tournament having lost five of their last 10 games, which isn’t exactly an impressive achievement, but that came while the Wolverines weren’t getting much of anything out of their supporting cast. But with Mitch McGary playing like a guy that could end up being a first round pick if he decided to leave school this season, the Wolverines look like that team that was ranked No. 1 in the country again.
Louisville may be the best team in the country, but with this version of McGary, Michigan isn’t all that far behind.
But that’s not the only intriguing aspect of this game.
Louisville’s strength just so happens to match up perfectly with Michigan’s strength.
The reason that Louisville is so good is that their defense is just a night mare to try and play against. In fact, the Cardinals actually have the most efficient defense of the Kenpom era, which spans the last decade, and the reason that they are so efficient on the defensive end is their ability to force turnovers. They are second in the country in turnover percentage, a fact that is the direct result of how nightmarish guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are to dribble the ball against.
Michigan? They have the most efficient offense in the country, and while a lot of that has to do with a fella by the name of Trey Burke and the Wolverine’s ability to consistently shoot the ball from three, they are also the best in the country when it comes to protecting the ball. That’s right. The team that leads the country in forcing turnovers is going up against a team that doesn’t turn the ball over.
It gets better.
Michigan’s best player is Burke. In fact, he’s the best point guard in the country and has swept the National Player of the Year awards. Louisville’s best players? Smith and Siva, who just so happen to be two of the best perimeter defenders in the country and who will harass Burke up and down the floor for 40 minutes.
Oh, and Pitino is as big of a name and as much of a coaching celebrity as you’ll find at this level. If he hadn’t left for the NBA, he might be the best college basketball coach of all-time right now. John Beilein is an unassuming x’s-and-o’s guru that began as a community college coach in Upstate NY.
I cannot wait for this game. You should feel the same way.
Which, of course, probably means that it will end up being a 30 point blowout.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Mar 12, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
The NCAA will not allow Baylor to wear the jerseys that were created for them by Adidas.
Mar 12, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
Weber State is the presumptive favorite, but as many Big Sky teams are on equal footing, the Wildcats may again miss the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT
Michigan State and Iowa look to right the ship, Wisconsin tries to earn a No. 1 seed and Nebraska and Minnesota try to lock up a bid.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT
The major conference tournaments kicks off on Wednesday.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT
The Maryland basketball team honors a former manager that passed away.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Regular season champion UC Irvine may have gone 13-3 in Big West play, but look for this tournament to provide a surprise or two.
Mar 12, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT
Doug McDermott’s SI cover pays homage to a man that he passed on the career scoring list weeks ago.
Mar 12, 2014, 9:09 AM EDT
Up to 13 spots remain uncertain for the stretch run.
Mar 12, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
While there’s a clear favorite in the Pac-12 tournament, there will be plenty of drama with multiple teams looking to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
No. 8 San Diego State, No. 20 New Mexico are the clear favorites in Las Vegas. But don’t expect those two teams to simply coast to the title game, either.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:38 AM EDT
Four autobids were decided on Tuesday as the NCAA Tournament has some new entrants into the field of 68. Find out who made the Big Dance and see how BYU is looking after its WCC title game loss.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Gonzaga is back in the tournament for what feels like the 100th straight year, but this team is a bit different than Gonzaga teams of old.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Meet the North Dakota State Bison, the winners of the Summit League and one of the — likely — trendy upset picks in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT
The coaching carousel continued to spin on Tuesday night as Loyola Marymount opted not to renew the contract of head coach Max Good.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:06 PM EDT
Get to know the Northeast Conference tournament champs!
Mar 11, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
The Milwaukee Panthers are dancing after winning four games in the Horizon League Conference Tournament. Meet one of the NCAA Tournament’s more dangerous double-digit seeds here.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
After only two seasons as head coach, Tennessee State has opted to fire head coach Travis Williams.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
The Southland’s top team has been upset in the conference tournament for the past three seasons. Will the trend continue? Or has the arrival of Stephen F. Austin’s new coach, Brad Underwood, altered the trajectory?
Mar 11, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
UNC Wilmington on Tuesday announced that head coach Buzz Peterson is out after four years at the school.
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