March Madness 2013: Predicting Performances for Title Game's Best Players
Michigan and Louisville are set for their NCAA tournament title game showdown. The star-studded teams will be looking for big performances from their reliable players in order to win the tournament and bring home a championship to their school.
The game features strong guard play for both teams. While both rely on contributions from their big men, this matchup will surely be decided based on the guards.
Here are predictions for the best players on each team.
For the tournament, Peyton Siva is shooting just 16-of-45 from the floor including going 1-of-5 in the Sweet 16 and 1-of-9 in the Final Four. The 35.6 percent shooting is way down from Siva's season average of 40.4 percent. The Cardinals need Siva to score the basketball and to do so efficiently.
While he's had issues with his shot, Siva hasn't struggled to play ferocious defense. His incredible on-ball pressure has made it ridiculously difficult on opposing point guards to get into their sets and operate the offense. That's shown up in the box score over the last eight games as Siva as averaged three steals per outing.
Siva should get some opportunities to hit open shots, but his biggest impact will be on the defensive end. It may not show up in the stat sheet as much, but his presence will be felt.
Prediction: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 2 turnovers
The other half of Louisville's strong guard duo, Russ Smith has no problem doing the scoring. He's dominated competition during the NCAA tournament and torched defenses for 25 points per game. Most importantly for Louisville, Smith is shooting a stunning 50 percent from the floor.
Smith will have his hands full with an active Michigan team, but he should still get plenty of looks. If he can get hot like he has all tournament, it's hard to imagine any being able to put up enough points to beat Louisville. With its main scorers in shooting slumps, Michigan will have to match Smith's production.
Smith has the type of game that makes him one of the favorites to steal the show and light it up.
Prediction: Smith 26 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Despite shooting terribly, Trey Burke has done a great job to lead his team into the championship game. He's stayed within the offense and allowed his teammates to do the scoring. Throughout the tournament, Burke is shooting 32.4 percent, but has struggled with 2-of-12 and 1-of-8 shooting performances.
The big question mark for Burke will be how well he handles Louisville's pressure. Burke had seven turnovers against VCU's pressure, but the talent disparity allowed Michigan to run away with the game. Burke can't afford to be that loose with the basketball because the Cardinals will make them pay more than VCU did.
Burke won't be able to handle the press with ease and Louisville will make him pay.
Prediction: 14 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 6 turnovers
Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Michigan guard has done enough in the tournament, but outside the round of 64, Tim Hardaway Jr. just hasn't done enough consistently. His shooting has cooled dramatically throughout the tournament and he's 11-of-40 in the last three games including 5-of-18 from downtown.
For Michigan to win the game, it needs Hardaway to knock down shots and make Louisville pay for pressing. Depending on how well Burke handles the pressure, Hardaway should get open looks. If he knocks them down, the Wolverines have a chance.
While Burke will struggle with the press, Hardaway will also remain cool from downtown.
Prediction: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
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