Breaking Down Each Final Four Team's Strengths and Weaknesses
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At last, we’ve reached the Final Four and the climax of the college basketball season. Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan and Wichita State have locked in their spots as they attempt to make history.
Each one of these teams has proven its grit over the last month; however, they all have strengths and weaknesses that will determine if they become champions.
No. 1 Louisville
Louisville's leading scorer Russ Smith
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The Louisville Cardinals are one of the few teams this NCAA tournament that avoided being upset.
Rick Pitino’s crew is the only No. 1 seed that made it to Atlanta and has to be the favorite heading into the weekend. Louisville will meet Cinderella squad Wichita State and coach Gregg Marshall.
The Cardinals' biggest strength is their outstanding backcourt. They have not one but two potential NBA draft picks with their starting guard combination of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
Together, Smith and Siva have led the Cardinals through the tournament with ease, their toughest test coming in the Sweet 16 against Oregon, where they won by eight.
Through the first four games, Smith has been their go-to scorer, averaging 26 points per game.
Louisville’s biggest weakness is its half-court offense.
If their opponent can slow the tempo down and force Siva and Smith to work against a set defensive front, then the Cardinals could be in trouble.
They don’t have a very good inside threat on offense, nor do they have perimeter shooting that can stretch the floor (32.8 percent three-point shooting), so they rely on team speed and scoring in transition.
No. 9 Wichita State
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall cuts down the net.
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The Wichita State Shockers solidified themselves as this year’s Cinderella team by making it all the way to the Final Four.
The boys from the Missouri Valley Conference have looked great this postseason, defeating teams like Pitt, Gonzaga and Ohio State.
The Shockers’ biggest strength right now is their momentum. Throughout the tournament coach Gregg Marshall has rallied his team's confidence. In every game they’ve played thus far, Wichita State thinks it's the favorite, and its play backs that up.
The Shockers are also very athletic and force issues in the paint for their opponent. Forwards Cleanthony Early (14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in the tournament) and Carl Hall (10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks) have been monsters on both ends of the court.
Wichita State’s biggest weakness is scoring. Guys like Hall and Early can be disruptive inside and on the boards; however, the Shockers don’t shoot particularly well (44.3 percent).
In every game so far, their success has started from the defensive end of the floor. If they find themselves in an early hole, it could be too much to recover from.
No. 4 Michigan
Michigan leader Trey Burke
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The Michigan Wolverines are back in the Final Four for the first time since the days of Chris Webber and the Fab Five.
The Maize and Blue have looked as impressive as anyone thus far, storming into Atlanta while beating the likes of VCU, Kansas and Florida.
Michigan’s biggest strength this year is its star power. Guard Trey Burke may just be the best player in the country, and role players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary have helped make the Wolverines' run to the Final Four look simple.
The Wolverines offense has really yet to be contained, as Burke has been able to penetrate the lane to either score or kick the ball to playmakers like Glenn Robinson III.
Michigan’s biggest weakness is defense. Star players are always helpful on offense, but guarding the ball is a different story.
The Wolverines' problem is that they’re a smaller team that doesn’t defend well or alter shots in the paint (just three blocks per game as a unit). If their opponent has a big man in the middle who can create good looks, Michigan will have a hard time.
No. 4 Syracuse
Syracuse guards Carter-Williams and Triche.
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The Syracuse Orange return to the Final Four for the first time in a decade.
Jim Boeheim leads his talented bunch into the final weekend after defeating quality programs like Indiana and Marquette.
The Orange’s biggest strength is their defense. Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone has worked wonders this March, stymieing opponent shooters all tournament.
The most points Syracuse has given up thus far was only 60 to Cal in the Round of 32. This is due in large part to the disruptive zone led by Michael Carter-Williams up top (2.8 steals per game) and Rakeem Christmas inside (1.8 blocks per contest).
Although a very balanced team, the Orange have problems on the offensive end of the court. Both guards Brandon Triche and Carter-Williams are capable of breaking down a defense. However, when they don't play right, the team’s offense seems forced.
Both C.J. Fair and James Southerland can stroke the three-ball (both shoot over 40 percent from deep this season), but without the flow controlled by one of the point guards, 'Cuse can struggle.