The national championship game is set, and it should be a great game.
Of the four teams that made the semifinals, most fans would have to agree that the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines made for the best of the four possible final scenarios. Luckily for those fans, that's exactly how it played out after those schools managed to get past their semifinal opponents.
The Cardinals prevailed over the Wichita State Shockers, 72-68, with the Wolverines having just enough to get past a game Syracuse Orange team, 61-56.
Neither of the games provided end-to-end excitement, but with the overall defensive strength of the Orange and Shockers, you knew both games were likely to become wars of attrition.
In case you missed the action, here are quick recaps of the two semifinal games.
Louisville Cardinals 72, Wichita State Shockers 68
Not since the days of the American Revolution did a Hancock make such a large impact. Largely on the strength of Luke Hancock's 20 points, Louisville has made it to the national championship.
The first half was some of the Cardinals' worst basketball of the season. They were foolishly turning the ball over and didn't look to be into the game. It was quite a surprise, considering how strong the team had looked and how it was carrying the inspiration from Kevin Ware.
Wichita State did a great job crashing the boards and cutting off the inside game. In the end, the talent of Louisville shone through.
Russ Smith was the leading scorer for the Cardinals, finishing with 21 points. It's a much less significant performance considering he went 6-of-17 from the floor and turned the ball over five times.
Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva weren't much better. Dieng didn't record any points, and Siva managed to make just one field goal.
Cleanthony Early stepped up in a big way for the Shockers. He finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Armstead might be left wondering what if after he only made one of his 10 field-goal attempts, finishing with just two points.
Michigan Wolverines 61, Syracuse Orange 56
Defense was the operative word on the second of Saturday's Final Four action. The two teams only combined to shoot 44-of-108 from the floor.
The game went right down to the wire, but Michigan just had too much in the end. The Orange tried to make a fevered comeback, but Brandon Triche's charge with 19 seconds left was the final nail in the coffin.
Much was made about how John Beilein would try and work around Syracuse's vaunted zone defense. The Orange had swallowed up their previous four opponents.
Michigan proved to be a much tougher beast to slay. The Wolverines didn't have a great performance, but they did enough to get to the national title game.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were rendered ineffective for much of the game. Together they combined for just 5-of-24 shooting and 20 points. Burke in particular was poor, scoring just seven points.
Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland didn't fare much better on the other side. They combined for 3-of-15 from the field for seven points.
Credit has to go to Beilein and the Wolverines. Michigan didn't come in with a great defense but managed to shackle the Orange's biggest stars. Despite Burke struggling, the rest of the team stepped up and provided just enough to get the victory.
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