Saturday's Final Four was the epitome of the 2012-13 college hoops season: back-and-forth battles, clutch shots down the stretch, unexpected heroes and unpredictability all around.
In the day's first semifinal, No. 9—and double-digit underdog—Wichita State gave top-seeded Louisville all it could handle. The Shockers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second half and were playing with the physicality and energy that suggested history was about to be made.
But with Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng struggling, Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson stepped up for the Cardinals and sparked the comeback to earn the 72-68 win.
Ahh yes...just like we all expected.
In the night's second game, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert—again, just like we all expected—hit a slew of first-half threes and Mitch McGary dominated all over the court as Michigan led Syracuse for most of the game and survived a late comeback by the Orange, winning 61-56.
Let's take a look at the top highlights from the night's scintillating matchups.
Wait a minute, isn't this what Louisville is supposed to do?
The Cardinals, who made it to the Final Four on the strength of their pressure defense, ability to force turnovers, and mastery in the open court, were given a taste of their own medicine early on in Atlanta.
Tekele Cotton started the fast break when he picked off Peyton Siva's pass, then subsequently dropped it off to Cleanthony Early, who finished with a thunderous jam like he was mad at the rim.
It was a play that put the Shockers up four, and at that point, it was clear—nobody was backing down in this one.
The Cardinals looked dead in the water.
Wichita State was up by double digits several minutes into the second half. Gregg Marshall's squad was playing the exact type of physical game it wanted; Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng were playing poorly and the outlook was bleak for the heavy favorite.
(Luke) Hancock to the rescue!
The key reserve, who was averaging just 7.4 points a game coming into the contest, dropped in 20 points on a slew of three-pointers and drives to the rack.
None were bigger than this dagger, which put the Cardinals ahead by five with two minutes left.
You could beat a suffocating, long 2-3 zone by trying to penetrate it, by swinging the ball and making quick rotations or by crashing the offensive glass.
Or, you know, you can just hit 30-foot three-pointers.
Seriously, just ask T.J. Sorrentine. It works.
Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht—who has pretty much had a permanent spot on these slideshows—apparently agrees. After knocking down a corner three and getting knocked down in the process moments earlier, he decided simply to extend his range to where defenders wouldn't bother him.
I'd say it worked.
"Oh, man. That was so much easier than putting. I should just try to get the ball in one shot every time."
After missing his first four shots—two from inside and two from right at the three-point line—Burke decided to adopt Albrecht's (and Happy Gilmore's) strategy and simply score from really long distance.
It's clearly much easier that way.
This bomb capped off Michigan's nearly flawless first half.
Mitch McGary did it all.
He picked up two massive blocks to start the game. He crashed the glass with ferocity. He led a fast break and made a beautiful dish. He made a no-look pass for another basket later in the game. He dunked. He even hit a mid-range jump shot in the middle of Syracuse's tough zone.
In the end, he finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and several highlight-reel plays.
Unfortunately, this offensive rebound and assist was the best I could find, but know that McGary was the star of the night.