The national championship will feature two exciting teams, but they must both focus on a couple things in order to become NCAA champs.
Both the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines came away with wins in very close games during the Final Four. Neither team played at their best, but they will need to do so if they plan on winning on Monday night.
Here are a couple things they must work on in the National Championship Game.
Gorgui Dieng Must Step up for Louisville
The Cardinals have relied on the solid play of Dieng all season, but he wasn’t able to step up against the Wichita State Shockers, and they nearly lost because of it. In his 30 minutes on the floor, Dieng failed to score a single point and grabbed four fouls. He may have grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks, but the performance was not a solid one.
Before this rough game, he had been sensational all season. He’s averaged 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals during the regular season while shooting 53.1 percent from the field. According to Sports-Reference.com, his defensive rating of 80.6 is the best in the Big East and third best in the NCAA.
Dieng will need to avoid another game like the one on Saturday. If he can play like he usually does, this team will be in much better shape to pull off the win.
Mitch McGary Needs to Stay Hot for Michigan
If there’s one player that’s been hot the entire tournament for the Wolverines, it’s definitely been Mitch McGary.
The freshman forward didn’t make much of an impact during the regular season, but he’s exploded since the beginning of the tournament. He’s averaged 16 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 2.2 steals in the first five games of the tourney. He crashes the boards with intensity. His ability to rebound on offense was highlighted against Syracuse, as he constantly hit balls back to the backcourt and gave the team second chances to score.
It doesn’t feel like McGary is a freshman right now, and he needs to keep playing like he has in the final game. It’s no easy task going up against the Cardinals, especially with Dieng underneath the basket. If McGary can keep scoring in the paint without being frustrated by the Cardinals’ big man, the Wolverines will have a big advantage down low.
Both Backcourts Have to be Ready
This game may feature some solid big men, but the real matchup will be in the backcourt, where both teams feature some NBA-caliber guards.
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The Wolverines have the Wooden Award winner in Trey Burke along with Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. to make one of the most intimidating group of guards in the nation. All three can score from almost anywhere on the court, and they’re the top three scorers on their team.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have two fantastic guards in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. They combine for 28.7 points, 8.6 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. Not only are they both great at running the offense, they are also both excellent pickpockets on defense.
Championship teams usually have great guards, and this is certainly the case this year. With so many pro prospects in both backcourts, it’s going to be quite an exciting matchup.