Final Four 2013: Picks, Predictions and More for Saturday's Slate

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 31:  Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates on the court after they won 85-63 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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2013 season couldn't see a more fitting end than the Final Four matchups fans will witness Saturday and beyond. 

After a regular season marked by constant turbulence in the polls, only one top seed advanced to the national semifinals. In the stead of heavy favorites like Ohio State, Florida and Indiana are two No. 4 seeds and a No. 9 seed in Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State. 

Now college basketball fans will be treated to two games on Saturday that have plenty of questions.

Can Louisville continue its dominant march to the title? Or will Wichita State continue to play the role of shocker? Sorry, couldn't resist. 

Can Syracuse ride its 2-3 zone to a national championship game appearance? Or will Michigan's guards find a way to bust it?

Here's a closer look at both matchups that will determine who gets the chance to win it all.


Louisville Cardinals vs. Wichita State Shockers

Prediction: Wichita State fails to hit 70 for the first time all tournament

The Shockers have been a productive team offensively in all four games. 

They got ridiculously hot (14-of-28 from three) when they upset Gonzaga in the round of 32. They overwhelmed Ohio State early on and have scored over 70 points in every tournament game thus far. 

Against Louisville, that streak will come to an end. 

No disrespect to the Shockers; they've proven they are legitimate. But no team plays pressure defense quite like the Cardinals. No one has scored 70 points or more against them in their four tournament games. 

With Wichita State's offense clicking, and Louisville's defense as stifling as ever, something has to give. All of Louisville's other opponents were coming off 70-plus point performances, too.

Expect the Cardinals to overwhelm the Shockers on the defensive end of the floor.


Pick: Louisville 70, Wichita State 60

Wichita State isn't just a one-trick pony. They've defeated teams with great shooting. They've beaten teams by outworking them on the glass. However, Louisville has been the most dominant team in the tournament.

Russ Smith has scored at least 23 points in every tournament game. Gorgui Dieng, who recorded four blocks in the Cardinals' Elite Eight win over Duke, is the best defensive big man that the Shockers will see this year.

The Cardinals are just far too balanced to be upset by the Shockers.


Michigan Wolverines vs. Syracuse Orange

Prediction: Nik Stauskas is the X-factor

Syracuse loves to pack it in on defense with the 2-3 zone and force teams to shoot outside. Everyone knows that. 

The reason it has been especially effective in this year's tournament: No one has been able to take advantage of the open three-point looks available. 

Marquette went a pitiful 3-of-24 from deep. Indiana had the most success from distance, going 3-of-15 for 20 percent. That's impressive defense on the part of the Orange, but eventually, a team has to knock down more of those shots. 

Enter Michigan's sharpshooting freshman Nik Stauskas. He went 6-for-6 from deep against Florida and is a 44.9 percent three-point shooter on the season. 

Stauskas is usually the least talked about of Michigan's five starters, but whether he is able to shoot well could be the determining factor in this game. 


Pick: Michigan 66, Syracuse 64

This game should come down to the wire. 

Syracuse has been undeniably great on defense. The Orange have given up no more than 60 points in a game throughout the tournament. However, Michigan has the firepower on the perimeter to challenge the zone. 

Unlike Marquette, who relied on guard penetration to function offensively, Michigan can score in a variety of ways and have two guards, in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., capable of finding the holes in the zone and getting the ball where it needs to be. 

Syracuse will remain in the game and could pull close, but Michigan should get enough scoring on the perimeter to hold the advantage. The Wolverines' balance gives them an advantage down the stretch.