Final Four 2013: What We Learned About Each Winning Team on Saturday

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IApril 7, 2013

Apr 6, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Mitch McGary (4) celebrates with forward Jordan Morgan (52) after defeating the Syracuse Orange 61-56 in the semifinals during the 2013 NCAA mens Final Four at the Georgia Dome.  Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville and Michigan advanced to the National Championship Game on Saturday, defeating Wichita State and Syracuse respectively in the Final Four.

But what did we learn about each team as we look ahead to the national title game? Are there some areas Louisville and Michigan have to improve on in order to claim the championship? Can they overcome some obstacles and win anyway?

Here's a look at what we learned from each winning team in the Final Four on Saturday.



Louisville Can Win When Russ Smith Struggles From the Field

Louisville relies so much on junior guard Russ Smith for scoring. He was averaging 18.9 points headed into Saturday's matchup. Gorgui Dieng, the Cardinals' second-leading scorer, was averaging 10.2 points. Smith had scored a combined 104 points in four NCAA tournament games before Saturday's clash.

That's why it was actually a positive sign for the Cardinals when Smith shot 6-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-12 from the free-throw line, yet they still won.

Louisville's defense was key once again, holding Wichita State to 41 percent shooting (including 6-of-20 from beyond the arc). 



Michigan Can Win When Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Struggle From the Floor

Michigan's two leading scorers, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., combined to shoot 5-of-24 from the floor on Saturday against Syracuse.

In fact, Michigan's third-leading scorer, Nik Stauskas, went 0-of-5 from the field, scoring zero points.

So, how did Michigan overcome a woeful shooting night?

Interestingly enough, with its defense and rebounding, which were actually supposed to be Syracuse's strengths.

The Wolverines held the Orange to 42 percent shooting and forced star point guard Michael Carter-Williams into five turnovers on Saturday. They also out-rebounded Syracuse while collecting 13 offensive rebounds.

Oh yeah, and there was that Mitch McGary fellow...



Mitch McGary Is For Real

We knew freshman forward Mitch McGary had potential coming into this season. He was the No. 28 overall recruit in the 2013 class, after all. 

But the fact that McGary has exploded in the NCAA tournament—despite heading into the tournament with just two starts to his name—is simply amazing.

The 6'10", 250-pound big man posted 10 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks on Saturday against Syracuse, guiding the Wolverines to victory despite their top three scorers struggling from the field. His ability to finish at the rim, knock down the mid-range jumper in the middle of Syracuse's zone, find his open teammates and clean up on the glass proved to be pivotal for Michigan.

If McGary declares for the 2013 NBA Draft after the season, it's hard to imagine him not being a first-round pick at this point.



Louisville Can Win Without Kevin Ware

Kevin Ware may not have posted eye-opening stats this season, but he provided stability as a backup guard for the Cardinals. You could tell by the team's reaction after his gruesome injury against Duke in the Elite Eight that he was part of the glue that held Louisville together.

That's why it was impressive when Louisville was able to beat Wichita State on Saturday despite its starters struggling from the field and Ware being out.

Who rose to the occasion?

I guess you could say junior Luke Hancock left his signature on the game. 

Hancock, who averaged 6.8 points in the NCAA tournament before Saturday's game, erupted for 20 points off the bench for Louisville on Saturday. He went 6-of-9 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from downtown.


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