The Final Four is the end of the road, so to speak, regarding the binary relationship between surviving and advancing.
And when it tips off on Saturday evening we are provided with quite a show.
Wichita State is the obvious Cinderella as the lowest seed, not to mention a mid-major school. Interestingly enough, two programs—Louisville and Syracuse—reached this level from the Big East.
Then there's Michigan. The lone school from an overloaded Big Ten that edged past Kansas in the Sweet 16. It's a fascinating set of programs, which will make for an exciting evening of college basketball.
Wichita State (9) vs. Louisville (1)
The Shockers continue to draw attention from all over, especially after dismantling Pittsburgh in the round of 64, upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga thereafter and pummeling La Salle in the Sweet 16.
Wichita State then maintained its confidence with an impressive victory over Ohio State. Featuring an offense that is capable of scoring when needed, the Shockers' ability to win the paint is most impressive.
Averaging 38.4 rebounds per game, Wichita State has the physical play to match Louisville inside the arc. Plus, the Shockers only give up an average of 60.9 points per game and a 39.3 shooting percentage. Ultimately, coach Rick Pitino's squad must be on its A-game.
The Cardinals will need to match Wichita State on the glass and capitalize on turnovers. Unfortunately for Louisville, the Shockers only cough it up 12.7 times per game and possess the handlers to beat the press.
If anything, expect Louisville to come out with incredible intensity. The Cardinals have the offense to outscore Wichita State, but getting an early lead and then suffocating on defense is to their advantage.
The Shockers will only equal pace by reducing the second-chance scoring opportunities of Louisville. The Cardinals, however, share the rock nicely for open outside looks and create wider lanes to drive.
Michigan (4) vs. Syracuse (4)
Michigan is an interesting matchup for Syracuse, because the Wolverines present the marksmanship to make the 2-3 zone obsolete.
Connecting 48.4 percent from the field, Michigan's clutch shooting is an extreme advantage: Just ask Kansas. At the same time, the Wolverines court a strong defense that has held three of its four tournament opponents to under 60 points.
So, Syracuse's offense has its hands full to win the time of possession battle and score efficiently.
An issue for the Wolverines, though, will be the dynamic defense of coach Jim Boeheim's squad. It completely shut down the high-powered attack of Indiana and has asphyxiated every offense this tournament.
Although Michigan's defense is solid, the Orange have allowed an average of 45.75 points during the madness. Trey Burke and Co. won't be able to solely rely on the long-range jumpers because Syracuse will challenge shots and dominate the post and inside the paint for rebounds.
Driving to the elbow and dishing beneath the bucket will keep the Wolverines effective. The concern still remains with 'Cuse's length, however. Any time Michigan fails to score, expect the Orange to respond more consistently at the opposite end.
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