After a wild regular season and six rounds of NCAA tournament games, we are finally down to the last game of the year. Either Louisville or Michigan will end the day as national champions.
Both participants had up-and-down years, but it is obvious that they are playing their best basketball at this point of the season.
Of course, winning the next game will not be an easy task. One side has an outstanding defense, while the other has an almost unstoppable offense. Still, either squad has a chance of victory if it follows these keys to the game.
Attack the Press
Before the tournament started, many predicted that Michigan would have problems with VCU and its tough full-court press. However, the Wolverines torched the defense by playing fast and getting open looks on the offensive end.
This is exactly what needs to happen against Louisville, probably the only team in the nation that runs a better press than VCU.
The Cardinals win games because they have quick guards who put a lot of pressure on the ball and it leads to bad mistakes. Trey Burke is good enough not to be affected by this type of scheme.
Instead of slowly coming up the court, Michigan has to go right by the defenders to get shots before the other team can get set. Between Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, someone should be able to get good look at the basket.
Additionally, avoiding turnovers will take away much of Louisville's offense that comes in transition.
Get Offensive Rebounds
Obviously, Louisville does not have many weaknesses after winning 15 games in a row, but one thing that causes them to struggle is allowing a lot of offensive rebounds.
During the year, Syracuse, Notre Dame and others were able to either keep games close or pull out wins against the Cardinals by getting double-digit offensive boards. Even Wichita State had 13 in the previous game.
The solid on-ball defense is rendered useless when the opponent is able to get easy putbacks on second chances.
Michigan had struggled all season at rebounding, but the recent play of Mitch McGary has changed that. The freshman is averaging a double-double in the NCAA tournament with 16 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
If he and Robinson can stay aggressive on the offensive glass like they were against Syracuse (10 offensive rebounds combined), the Wolverines will be in good shape.
Get Points in the Paint
All season long, Louisville dominated teams by scoring points close to the basket. Guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith used their quickness to get into the lane and then either finished or passed to Gorgui Dieng or someone else down low.
However, it appeared that the Cardinals forgot this strategy against Wichita State and tried turning into a three-point shooting team. Considering they made only 32.9 percent of shots from deep this season, this is not a good strategy.
Smith took 11 shots from deep, while Siva was 0-for-5 from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Dieng had zero points on only one field-goal attempt after finishing the year as the team's second-leading scorer.
If you reach the Final Four as the No. 1 overall seed, it is important to keep doing what you got there. Aside from Luke Hancock, this is not a good three-point shooting team.
The Cardinals need to get back to scoring in the paint like they have all year long.
Defend the Perimeter
If there is one way that Michigan will score a lot of points, it is with its three-point shooting. The Wolverines routinely take over 20 outside shots per game and make on average 38.3 percent as a team.
In addition, there are a bunch of players to guard, with three regular shooters averaging over 37 percent from three, plus the always-dangerous Glenn Robinson III.
When the top players miss their shots, you also have to be aware of Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert coming off the bench and scoring. The pair combined to go 4-for-5 from behind the arc against Syracuse.
Of course, the offense usually struggles when the team shoots poorly. In Michigan's last loss to Wisconsin, the squad made only three of its 13 three-point shots.
Fortunately, defending the perimeter is actually a strength for Louisville. In the last two games, Wichita State and Duke combined to shoot only 27.8 percent from deep.
This must continue against this dangerous team or else it will be a long night for the Cardinals.
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