March Madness comes down to one final game: the NCAA championship on Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Both teams have solidly earned their way into the championship game. Michigan head coach John Beilein will need to come up with a great game plan to put his Wolverines in position to win it all.
Here is Michigan's blueprint for beating Louisville in the championship game.
So far in the 2013 NCAA tournament, Peyton Siva has shot 1-of-12 from beyond the arc in five games, with his worst long-distance shooting episode coming in the national semifinal versus Wichita State.
Against the Shockers, Siva missed all five of his threes and shot 1-of-9 from the floor overall.
Backing off him when he is away from the basket is a wise move. No need to apply pressure on someone who can’t consistently hit shots.
Keeping Siva out of the lane is the best strategy for Michigan to limit his productivity. At 29 percent from three on the season, he just isn’t a good outside shooter.
Russ Smith shot 82 percent from the line during the regular season.
In the first four games of March Madness, the 6’1” junior went to the line an average of 10 times per game and hit 32 of his 40 free throws (80 percent).
Smith struggled from the line against Wichita State, though. He only made five of his 12 free throws.
He missed one fewer free throw Saturday night than he had missed in the previous four March Madness games.
I wouldn’t bank on that kind of free-throw futility continuing, though. If Michigan puts Smith on the line on Monday, I expect he will resume his season’s accuracy and make the Wolverines pay for putting him there.
After they hit one or two, you would think Wichita State would have either denied them the ball or been near enough to close out on them when they prepared to launch another long-range shot.
But most of Hancock and Henderson’s three-point shots were wide-open looks.
The rest of the Cardinals only hit 24 percent (4-of-17) of their shots from beyond the arc.
On Monday night, Michigan needs to keep track of these two shooters when they are on the court.
Rather than respond after they knock down a couple of threes, the Wolverines should deal with these two sharpshooters before they can gain confidence by making treys at the beginning of the game.
Very few players have made as dramatic of an improvement in the NCAA tournament as Mitch McGary. He has effectively more than doubled his regular-season production during the first five games of March Madness.
The 6’10" power forward has averaged 16 points and 11.6 rebounds per tournament game, while shooting 37-of-53 (70 percent) from the field.
One of the reasons that McGary has contributed at a higher level is because he has stayed out of foul trouble and on the floor. During the regular season, he played roughly 19 minutes per game. So far in the tournament, he has logged 31 minutes per game.
Because he is playing so well, the Wolverines need to specifically incorporate him into the flow of the offense.
McGary will be challenged by Louisville’s athletic center Gorgui Dieng. This matchup will be pivotal to the outcome of the title game, as Dieng's defensive length could restrict McGary's effectiveness around the basket.
If McGary continues to produce like he has been, not only is that good news for him, but it very well could be the tipping point that gives Michigan its second NCAA championship in school history.
Michigan’s top three scorers collectively scored 20 points and shot 5-of-29 (17 percent) from the floor, including 4-of-18 (22 percent) from beyond the arc.
If someone told me this is how these three would play in the national semifinal game, I would've predicted the Wolverines' return to Ann Arbor in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The best thing for this trio to do in preparation for Monday's championship game is take a "what's done is done" attitude and move on. After all, the three of them collectively hit 40.5 percent from the field as recently as their Elite Eight contest against Florida.
If Michigan wants to to win it all, these three players need to be on top of their games from the opening tip until the final horn signals the end of the game.