Louisville and Michigan look like the teams to beat after five rounds of March Madness, but most people's brackets were ruined after the first two or three rounds were finished.
The championship game is only one more step away, and four teams are left standing after two weeks of intense action.
Louisville will come to play minus one key player on April 6 when the games commence, as Kevin Ware suffered a brutal injury against Duke. According to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, his recovery will take approximately one year:
Stewart Mandel @slmandel
Rick Pitino on Ware: "Basically the bone popped out of his skin. It will take a year for him to come back. Same injury as Michael Bush."3/31/2013, 11:33:21 PM
Ware's injury puts pressure on other players to step up in his absence, but if Louisville's 85-63 drubbing of Duke in the Elite Eight is any indication, that won't be a problem.
With one week to rest up between games, all four teams will have time to thoroughly assess the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. Execution will be key, so which teams have the players to make it to the championship game?
Louisville (1) vs. Wichita State (9)
The Shockers have lived up to their name in the 2013 NCAA tournament, knocking off four tough teams to reach the Final Four, including No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 2 seed Ohio State.
Their luck is about to turn.
Louisville has been on a ridiculous roll in this tourney, winning its four games by an average of 21.7 points. The closest game the Cardinals were involved in came in the Sweet 16 against Oregon—a game Louisville won by eight points.
Wichita State's Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead have been playing well, but this duo is in for a mess of trouble against Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng.
Louisville forced more turnovers than any other team in the nation this past season besides VCU, and the Cardinals have dialed up the pressure more than ever in this tournament. In four tournament games, Louisville has tallied 48 steals.
Prediction: Wichita State won't be able to hold up against that kind of unrelenting pressure. Combined with the continued hot play of Smith, Siva and Dieng, Louisville will advance to the championship game.
Michigan (4) vs. Syracuse (4)
In a classic contest of offense vs. defense, Michigan will attempt to break through Syracuse's stifling 2-3 zone to continue its hot offensive output.
Syracuse has been defensively dominant in the 2013 tourney, allowing an average of just 45.7 points per game. Indiana—the No. 1 seed in the East, featuring the No. 5 offense in the nation—was held to just 50 points.
Michigan has heard this story before, though. After breaking out with an unbelievable second half against Kansas to win in overtime, the Wolverines dropped 79 points on Florida—the team with the No. 3 scoring defense in all the land, allowing just 53.7 points per game this past season.
Florida doesn't have Syracuse's lanky guards, though, and this upcoming battle could prove to be one of the most exciting games we've seen in the entire tournament.
Freshman forward Mitch McGary has been a lighting rod for the Wolverines on both ends of the court, and his ability to snag offensive rebounds and give Michigan second-chance buckets will be huge.
Prediction: In the end, Trey Burke will prove to be the deciding factor in this contest. His ability to score, dish out assists, make critical steals and haul in timely rebounds will give Michigan the edge over Syracuse.
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