Everyone talks about how the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournament are the two best sports days of the year. Well, the worst sports days of the year are finally coming to an end.
The time between the last Elite Eight and first Final Four game is brutal.
Here we are, being spoiled with hours and hours of scintillating, instant-classic, wonderfully wonderful college basketball with hardly any time in between, and then bam! Six days with nothing but the NIT to keep you entertained.
But enough whining. That absolutely terrifying stretch is over, and the games are finally here. Let's take a look at some last-minute projections.
Louisville vs. Wichita State
On the surface, this is hardly an even matchup.
Louisville embarrassed the entire Midwest en route to its second Final Four in a row, while Wichita State's magical Cinderella run is expected to come to an end soon. Eventually, David always runs into a Goliath who isn't willing to cooperate with the fairy tale.
But don't overlook the Shockers.
Not only do they match Louisville's full-court pressure with tough, physical defense of their own—something that is beneficial in what figures to be a low-scoring game—but they have unique depth in the backcourt.
Gregg Marshall's squad has five guards playing terrific basketball right now. If there's a way to beat a ferocious press, it's to put multiple ball-handlers on the court, and WSU can do just that.
While Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are the most dynamic guard tandem in the nation, the Cardinals simply don't have that kind of depth, especially with Kevin Ware sidelined.
I still expect Louisville, the team with far more talent, to come out on top, but this will be closer than many expect.
Louisville 68, Wichita State 60
Michigan vs. Syracuse
I don't even care who wins, I just want it to be gametime. The compelling aspects in this matchup are endless.
Trey Burke is the country's best point guard and facillitator, but he relies on penetration, which is nearly impossible against Syracuse's red-hot zone.
Speaking of the zone, who does Michigan put in the middle against it? It usually takes a big man who can shoot and pass to exploit the space at the free-throw line, but Mitch McGary—arguably Michigan's best player in this tournament—doesn't excel at those things. Will it be Glenn Robinson III? Tim Hardaway Jr.?
On the other side of the ball, how does Syracuse get its offense? Does it attempt to get into a fast-paced game against transition-savvy Michigan, where the Wolverines are dangerous but Michael Carter-Williams also shines? Can they get open looks for C.J. Fair and James Southerland against the Wolverines' one-time spotty, but suddenly-efficient perimeter defense? Which Brandon Triche will show up?
The games within the game are undoubtedly fascinating, and when you have two nearly opposite teams that match up against each other so well, you have a recipe for a riveting battle that you don't want to miss.
But I'm assuming you want more than that.
In the end, Syracuse has the length, athleticism and unique defensive strategy to at least slow down Burke, Michigan's most crucial weapon. That will be the difference in a close matchup.
Michigan 61, Syracuse 62
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