The brackets have long been crumpled up. It has dawned on most of you that you will not be winning the office pool this year. Don’t feel bad, we were even off the mark on a few of our upset predictions this year.
Alas, the Final Four has arrived and it’s time to reexamine the teams that are still alive and break down who has the greatest chance of cutting down the nets in Atlanta this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the match-ups.
LOUISVILLE VS. WICHITA STATE
Some might suggest that Louisville got off the hook by facing a mid-major team in the Final Four. After all, Wichita State did not even have what it takes this season to win the Missouri Valley Conference. Still, the Shockers did earn their trip to the Final Four, their marquee victory coming against No. 1 Gonzaga. They also ousted No. 2 Ohio State.
Unfortunately for the Shockers, their dream journey to the Final Four will likely come to an end against a white hot Louisville team. In terms of high-octane offenses, Wichita State simply cannot match the Cardinals. Louisville is a perfectly balanced team with precision guard play from Peyton Siva and Russ Smith in addition to a strong inside game from players like Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan.
Add to that the fact the Cardinals are playing with a new motivation — trying to win a national championship for teammate Kevin Ware, who suffered an absolutely gruesome leg injury during Louisville’s Elite Eight victory over Duke — and the Cardinals are an unstoppable force.
SYRACUSE VS. MICHIGAN
This is arguably the better match-up of the Final Four. Michigan, who finished fifth in the Big Ten during the regular season, has seemingly hit its stride at the right time. The Wolverines downed Florida by 20 points in their Elite Eight match-up.
However, Syracuse has been on a similar tear, and they present some real problems for Michigan. For starters, Syracuse’s zone defense has proven impenetrable as of late. Even with the savvy play of point guard Trey Burke, the Wolverines do not always respond well to overwhelming defense.
Plus, Syracuse has just as much talent at the guard position with Michael Carter-Williams, so the game will ultimately be won in the paint.
Michigan’s freshman center Mitch McGary has had a standout tournament performance this year, but the Orange feature bigs that are simply quicker and more athletic. Syracuse gets the slight edge in this one.
Many analysts thought the Big Ten was the top conference in the land, yet, we’re facing the real possibility that the National Championship could be a rematch of this year’s Big East tournament championship.
Syracuse stubbed its toe throughout the conference schedule this season, while Louisville cruised to a championship both in the regular season and the conference tournament. After a year that really did not see a consistent or dominant No. 1 team in the land, one has finally emerged. Of the four teams left in play, none of them have the weapons to aptly match up against Louisville.
Throw in a coach as savvy as Rick Pitino and this could be the year of the Cardinal.