The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is coming to an end, as March Madness extends into April with the Final Four teams set. The Elite Eight finished up this past Saturday, and saw the #1 Louisville Cardinals and the #4 Michigan Wolverines join the #4 Syracuse Orange and the appropriately nicknamed #9 Wichita State Shockers heading on to Atlanta for Final Four action. The top-seeded Louisville Cardinals bested the number two Duke Blue Devils by a score of 86 – 63. That Midwest Regional final game was an emotional one for Louisville, as teammate Kevin Ware received a tournament ending leg injury in the first half of the game. Louisville came out fired up after that point, and outscored Duke by 19 over the last 20 minutes.
The Florida Gators never seemed to be in their South Regional contest, and were blown out by Michigan 79 – 59. Wichita State and Syracuse had previously advanced, with the Shockers pulling a shocking four point upset over powerful #2 Ohio State 70 – 66. This made them the sixth team in the past seven years to reach the Final Four from a non-power conference. #3 Marquette could manage only 39 points against an impressive Syracuse lock-down zone that created 12 Marquette turnovers, and the Orangemen easily won by 16 points, 55 – 39. Syracuse and Michigan will face-off Saturday, April 6 after the Louisville – Wichita State game, and at this point Louisville has to be the Vegas odds on favorite to win it all.
Looking at the upcoming games, the Final Four matchups really favor the Louisville Cardinals. The Wichita State Shockers would love to pull one of the largest upsets in tournament history and knock off Louisville this coming Saturday. But the Cardinals are excellent at creating turnovers and can also score a ton of points, as evidenced by their 86 point effort against a defensively decent Blue Devils team. The Cardinals defense has created a turnover on an incredible 26.1% of their defensive possessions thus far in the tournament, so Wichita State needs to play shockingly perfect to manage a victory.
But Kevin Ware was one of the best turnover creators for Louisville, and his presence off the bench will be sorely missed. After hitting all six of his three point attempts against Florida, who seemingly were the only team in the world that didn’t understand his deadly potential from long range, Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas is ready to do damage against Syracuse in the Final Four. Let him set up in the far left corner (aka The Stauskas Corner) and you are asking for trouble. He is 23 of 42 from that spot on the year, but the Cuse runs a three-point-killing zone that has held opponents to just 14 of 92 (a miserly 15.2%) from long range so far in the NCAA tourney.
Speaking of Syracuse, they are probably the next favorite of the remaining four teams to win it all, behind Louisville and Michigan, and Wichita State definitely has nothing to lose as the remaining underdog. They have been playing all out, often seen laughing and smiling and having fun. That loose style of play has served them well thus far, but they will need much more than a fan favorite Final Four status and fun and gun basketball to beat the Cardinals Saturday. The Men’s Final Four is set, and Saturday will give us the two remaining teams which will face-off on April 8 in Atlanta Georgia for the 2013 title of NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion.