Louisville vs. Michigan: Role Players Who Must Step Up in Championship Game

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IApril 8, 2013

Nov 24, 2012; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Duke Blue Devils forward Ryan Kelly (center) battles for a rebound with Louisville Cardinals forward Montrezl Harrell (24) and forward Luke Hancock (11) during the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Championship in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Duke won 76-71.  Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Kevin Ware was keenly felt by Louisville in their Final Four matchup against Wichita State, but thankfully Luke Hancock came off the bench and scored 20 points to spur his team to victory. 

Role players don't live in the limelight as much as guys like Russ Smith, Trey Burke and Mitch McGary—the big names everyone knows about heading into Louisville's clash with Michigan for the 2013 NCAA national championship. 

These men won't be able to bring home a title without help from their teammates, though, and these role players will have a huge impact on which team wins the game.


Luke Hancock, G/F, Louisville

Even before Ware's brutal injury in the Elite Eight, Hancock had been a crucial player for Louisville's postseason run, averaging more than 22 minutes per game throughout this past season. 

A player who can do a bit of everything, Hancock's ability to snag critical rebounds, score from the perimeter and contribute on the defensive end has been invaluable to Louisville this season. 

His 20-point offensive outburst against Wichita State was the only reason the Cardinals advanced to the championship game. Though Hancock may not have another monster shooting night against Michigan, he will need to play a lot of minutes once again.

Likely, Hancock will be tasked with guarding freshman small forward Nik Stauskas at times on Monday night. If he can negate Stauskas' three-point shot and score with some regularity on the other end, Louisville will have a great chance to win.


Spike Albrecht, G, Michigan

Michigan relies on its starters to carry the load, both in terms of minutes on the court and in terms of scoring. That said, if any one player on Michigan's bench can make a big impact on the scoreboard, it's Albrecht. 

The diminutive freshman guard is a three-point specialist. Throughout the 2012-2013 season, he hit on 50 percent of all his three-point attempts, and he's a perfect 5-for-5 in this tournament from behind the arc.

He has only logged an average of 9.8 minutes per game in the tournament, but Albrecht consistently makes plays when he's on the court. After barely seeing any action in the team's first game, Albrecht has averaged 4.75 points, one rebound, .75 assists and .75 steals per game in the four games since.

Should Tim Hardaway Jr. and Burke struggle from the floor on Monday night, Albrecht will likely get a chance to make a big impact as a perimeter shooter. And if he gets hot from outside, Michigan could roll. 


Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville

McGary has been an absolute terror for opposing teams, and there's a good chance he'll get Chane Behanan into early foul trouble. 

Should Behanan be sent to the bench early, Harrell's role—which is already substantial for the Cardinals—will grow. 

Harrell has averaged 15.2 minutes per game in the tournament. He has been an efficient scorer, hitting on 14-of-20 field-goal attempts while also making a solid contribution on the glass with 3.6 rebounds per game. 

If Harrell can give Louisville good minutes, continue to take smart shots on offense and have a stellar performance on defense, the Cardinals have a chance to win the national championship.


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