March Madness 2013: Key Final Four Matchups to Watch
As the madness of March rolls over into April this year, only four teams remain as the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship heads into the final weekend.
The biggest surprise this year is No. 9 Wichita State making it all the way to the Final Four to take on the No. 1-seeded Louisville Cardinals.
Even with one of Rick Pitino’s better bench players being out, the Shockers are still going to have to worry about the famed full-court press that Louisville loves to run.
Here are some more matchups that can determine who will be playing for the national championship and who will be watching the game from their house.
Louisville's Full-Court Press Without Kevin Ware vs. Wichita State's Backcourt
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has a lot of depth at the forward position, but when it comes to his backcourt, he explained to ESPN that injured guard Kevin Ware was all he had:
We’re very deep in the frontcourt, but very light in the backcourt. We only had one sub in the backcourt and that was Kevin. He was as good as Peyton and Russ the way he was playing, so we never lost anything with all our pressure and our substituting.
Ware was a key player in Pitino’s full-court press this year. According to CBSSports.com, the Cardinals rank first in steals in the NCAA tournament with 48. Louisville’s coach likes to use continuous substitutions to keep his players fresh in order to run his press for 40 minutes. Ware was able to provide quality minutes (16.6 per game) and kept starters Peyton Siva and Russ Smith out of foul trouble.
With Ware now out, Louisville has to look to junior walk-on Tim Henderson to give them the minutes it needs to run its defensive scheme. With only averaging 3.5 minutes per game, Henderson doesn’t have the experience to run the press effectively.
Pitino said that he does not plan to deviate from his game plan this late in the season, but Louisville might have to stay away from the press. The number of steals might go down, but Siva and Smith can stay out of foul trouble.
Wichita State's Rough Play vs. Louisville's Depth Inside
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
If Wichita State wants to continue its Cinderella run and become the lowest seed to ever make the championship game, then it’ll have to take advantage of its strengths: rebounding and post scoring.
The Shockers rank 27 in the NCAA in rebounds per game during the regular season (38.4). Their two leading scorers are also their two best rebounders. They want to feed the ball inside and take advantage of their height inside.
This year’s Cinderella wants to slow the game down and use its defense to stop you. Throughout the season Wichita State ranks only 117 in scoring (69.4 points per game). According to CBSSports.com, of the teams remaining, the Shockers average the most rebounds per game (43.2) and total rebounds (173).
However, Louisville might have too much depth in the post. With five players that can sub in and out for the Cardinals, it's going to be hard for them to get into foul trouble or get tired. If Louisville starts to run, Wichita State might not be able to stay with them.
Wichita State will look to pound the boards and get physical with Louisville this Saturday. If the lack of depth in the backcourt causes Peyton Siva and Russ Smith to get tired or get in foul trouble, Rick Pitino might switch to a man-to-man defense. That’s the best-case scenario for the Shockers to move the ball up the court, get inside the Cardinals defense and crash the boards.
If they don’t, the turnover-prone Shockers will be overmatched by the press and will see the clock strike midnight on their Cinderella run.
Michigan Offense vs. the 2-3 Zone
Win McNamee/Getty Images
When the men of orange took down No. 1 Indiana, Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense caused Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers more than enough trouble.
Indiana quickly fell behind by 18 as Syracuse forced 10 turnovers over the first 10 minutes of the game.
Michigan has turned the ball over the least out of all the Final Four teams (10.5 per game). The Wolverines will need to keep the trend going if they have any chance of beating the Orangemen.
Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary will see a lot of the ball on Saturday. The soft spot of the zone will be open for him to continuously get the ball around the free-throw line. If he can make smart passes to the many shooters Michigan has in its arsenal, then the Wolverines could break the zone and give Syracuse its own frustrations.
If not, Boeheim’s squad will do what it does best: cause turnovers and score on the fast break time and time again.
Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams vs. Michigan's Trey Burke
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This game comes down to the battle of the point guards.
Michael Carter-Williams has to keep playing like he has been this NCAA tournament. He has been prone to be a no-show in some games, scoring under 10 points in three of his last eight games. He will have to make his presence known against Michigan.
Syracuse will have to utilize multiple screens to get Carter-Williams open lanes to the basket. That's when he can score or dish it to an open teammate for a shot.
Trey Burke, on the other hand, has shown up big time this season. Averaging almost 19 points and seven assists per game, the National Player of the Year hopeful needs to find the scoring touch from beyond the arc this Saturday.
Burke will have many open shots against Syracuse this weekend, but he needs to knock them down if his team wants to cut down the nets.