NCAA Bracket 2013: Predictions for Final Four and Championship Game
It's been a wild and crazy ride, but we've finally whittled down the field and the Final Four is set at the 2013 NCAA tournament.
While many folks pegged Louisville as a potential title contender and a few believed Michigan would revert to its early-season form and storm its way to Atlanta, most didn't project Wichita State and Syracuse as Final Four teams.
Still, the Shockers and the Orange have made it this far, and neither side will go down without a fight despite coming into the Final Four as underdogs. Let's break down each of the three games remaining in this tournament.
Final Four: Louisville over Wichita State
Even without Kevin Ware, it's tough to see the Cardinals losing to Wichita State.
Louisville has everything you want in a Final Four team. They play excellent defense, have a strong frontcourt and backcourt, can rely on star Russ Smith to lead the offense (18.9 points per game) and have the best depth of any team still standing.
Plus, the Cardinals peaked at the perfect time this season and have now won 14 straight games.
Wichita State's run to the Final Four has been epic. The team's effort, ability to earn second and third opportunities on possessions by crashing the boards and the play of point guard Malcolm Armstead all give the Shockers a chance.
But frankly, Louisville is just better, and the Cardinals will prove it.
Final Four: Michigan over Syracuse
This really is the worst possible matchup for Syracuse and its zone defense, at least theoretically. Michigan has plenty of shooters that can bomb away over the 'Cuse zone, and if the team shoots anything like it did against Florida, it's hard to see the Wolverines failing to reach the championship game.
Against the Gators, Michigan shot 46.2 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from three (10-of-19). Nik Stauskas scored 22 points on 6-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Trey Burke scored 15 points and added eight rebounds and seven assists.
Sure, Michigan will find it difficult to score baskets around the rim, and breakout star Mitch McGary will have a battle on his hands in the paint. But Michigan's ability to let it fly from the perimeter is the perfect antidote to Syracuse's zone. Plus, the Wolverines have the best player in this contest in Burke.
Syracuse won't go down without a fight, but this matchup looks to favor Michigan.
National Championship: Louisville over Michigan
This game will be an interesting clash of styles. According to KenPom.com, Louisville had the nation's most efficient defense this season, while Michigan had the nation's most efficient offense. However, as the old saying goes, offense wins games but defense wins championships.
Which team wins the national championship?
Sure, Louisville's press won't be nearly as effective against Burke and his athletic teammates, but Louisville's depth, size down low and efficiency on offense (according to KenPom, Louisville had the nation's fifth-best offensive efficiency) will be too tough a recipe for Michigan to overcome.
It's possible that Burke will simply put the Wolverines on his shoulders and carry Michigan to a national championship, but it's just as possible that Smith will do the same for Louisville. The Wolverines pose a lot of questions for opponents, but I believe Louisville will have all the answers.
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