NCAA Championship Game 2013: Odds, Picks, Predictions for Louisville vs Michigan

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NCAA Championship Game 2013: Odds, Picks, Predictions for Louisville vs Michigan
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We can now say with certainty that either Louisville or Michigan will be the 2013 national champion.

But that doesn't mean the drama is over. 

This year's college hoops season has been defined by unpredictability, and Saturday's Final Four was more of the same. 

The game that was supposed to be a blowout went down to the wire. Wichita State led by as many as 12 in the second half, but Cards role players Tim Henderson and Luke Hancock led Louisville to the 72-68 comeback victory.

In the game that was supposed to be a toss-up, Michigan led for the final 29 minutes against Syracuse and were able to hold off a late run by the Orange to secure the 61-56 win. 

If Saturday—and the entire season—was any indication, Monday's national championship is going to be historic. 

 

Tip Time: Monday, April 8, at 9:23 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

Watch: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness On Demand

Spread Info: Louisville (-3.5), Over/Under: 138, via Vegas Insider

 

Key Player to Watch: Russ Smith

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In Louisville's first four wins, Smith was the tournament's obvious best player, averaging 26 points on 54 percent shooting to go with 2.0 assists and 3.25 steals per contest.

But on Saturday, the wrong side of his polarizing—AKA Russdiculous—game reared its ugly head. The junior poured in 21 points, but he hit just 6-of-17 shots from the field, 5-of-12 free throws and made multiple head-scratching decisions on his way to five turnovers.

The "good" Smith needs to show up against Michigan and Trey Burke.  

 

Key Matchup to Watch: Mitch McGary vs. Gorgui Dieng

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

McGary is just causing havoc right now. The talented freshman is strong, physical and outworks everyone around him. But on Saturday, he showed he also had the finesse, footwork and vision to handle Syracuse's length and athleticism. 

He'll have to do that again against Dieng, who is coming off a horrendous game but is 6'11" and protects the key with plenty of size, length and power of his own.  

Strength, energy, physicality and pure dominance on the offensive end vs. one of the best low-post defenders and shot-blockers in America. Something has to give. 

 

National Championship Pick: Michigan

Louisville thrives on its ability to cause turnovers and get Smith and Peyton Siva into transition, but that won't work against Michigan.

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The Wolverines are first in America in turnover percentage and proved against VCU's havoc defense that pressure doesn't work against them. Throw in their countless offensive weapons, and scoring against Louisville's ferocious D shouldn't be a problem. 

Moreover, these games tend to come down to guard play. In the end, you have to ask yourself who you trust more: Russ Smith or Trey Burke?

Yeah.

Louisville has clearly looked like the best team over the past month (at least), but Michigan isn't a good matchup for Rick Pitino's squad. Take the Wolverines in a close one. 

Louisville 71, Michigan 74

 

Tournament MOP Prediction: Mitch McGary

The argument for Trey Burke will be a strong one. Without his second half against Kansas, the Wolverines would be watching from home right now. In addition to several timely shots, his ability to orchestrate Michigan's efficient offense has been a joy to watch. 

However, the electric sophomore point guard is quietly shooting just 29.3 percent from the field in the tournament.

McGary, meanwhile, has been consistently unstoppable down low for the Wolverines, averaging a ridiculous 16.0 points on 68.1 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals (and added six assists on Saturday).

Just one of several offensive rebounds and assists from McGary on Saturday

Burke is the best player in college basketball, but McGary has been the best in the Big Dance. 

 

Link to Printable PDF

Link to Live Bracket

Follow all the exciting NCAA tournament action with March Madness Live.

 

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