March Madness 2013: Predicting How Final Four Will Unfold

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 31:  (L-R) Chane Behanan #21 and Luke Hancock #11 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrate in the final minute against the Duke Blue Devils during the Midwest Regional Final round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 31, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

What the NCAA tournament has lacked in quality, it's more than made up for in drama.

You've got a ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers in the Final Four for the first time since 1965—not to mention the No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles making the Sweet 16.

As with the regular season, it's very hard to predict how the Big Dance will play out. You had top seeds all getting eliminated early, with very few teams looking to be at an elite level.

This follows what has and continues to be a leveling of the playing field between the major college basketball powers and mid-majors.

With the tourney set to end in less than a week, it's only appropriate to try and be completely wrong just one more time. Here is how the Final Four will (unlikely) unfold.


Final Four

Louisville Cardinals vs. Wichita State Shockers

The Cardinals are riding a massive wave of momentum right now. They've been the best team in the tournament by quite a bit. Aside from Louisville, there hasn't been a team that has constantly dominated in every round.

As if that weren't enough, there's now the added motivation of playing for Kevin Ware. He went to high school about a half-hour away from Atlanta, which just so happens to be the location of the Final Four. You could see in the players' faces when he went down exactly what Ware means to his teammates.

Wichita State has been very successful on the boards this season. The Shockers rank third in the country in total rebounds. Unfortunately for them, the Cardinals are very close behind at seventh. It's hard to envision them having an answer for Gorgui Dieng.

Should it come down to guard play, the Shockers will be toast. Russ Smith has been the best player in the tournament, and Peyton Siva managed to find his shooting stroke in the Elite Eight.

Louisville will just have too much firepower.

Louisville 80, Wichita State 65


Syracuse Orange vs. Michigan Wolverines

Will Michigan be able to unlock Syracuse's vaunted zone defense? So far, nobody has been able to negate the Orange's suffocating play.

Good shooting often beats zone defenses. Inevitably, gaps open up on the court. It's up to the offensive team to make the most of those gaps and knock down shots.

Luckily for the Wolverines, they're one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. Their 38.5 shooting percentage is 18th in the country. Of course, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 28.2 percent shooting from behind the arc.

A lot will come down to Trey Burke. If he can drive and penetrate, he can help bust the zone. That's easier said than done considering perimeter defenders like Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland. Burke's shooting has been a bit lackluster so far in the tournament. That will be fatal if he starts slowly once again.

This one won't be fun to watch, but Syracuse will get it done defensively.

Syracuse 73, Michigan 67


National Championship

Louisville Cardinals vs. Syracuse Orange

It would be great to have an all Big East national title game. Although the Big East isn't dying, this is the last time fans will see it as it currently stands. College basketball and the conference have a long, rich history. The games haven't always been fun to watch, but there's no denying the impact the Big East has had.

These two split their regular season games, with Louisville coming out the better in the conference championship. The Cardinals outscored the Orange by 30 points in the second half. They managed to score 78 points despite only getting 11 from Russ Smith.

The Michigan-Syracuse game will look like a barn burner compared to this one.

Both Louisville and Syracuse will play an extremely physical game. With Smith and Siva, the Cardinals have the kind of slashing guards who can penetrate the zone and exploit the gaps. Dieng, who has largely struggled against the Orange, will play a big part underneath as well.

It's going to be close, but Louisville gets the slight edge. It has too much talent, and the Orange will revert back to regular-season form, when they lost five of eight games going into the Big East tournament.

Louisville 71, Syracuse 64