NCAA Championship Game

Image courtesy of Nelson
Trey Burke has swept college basketball's individual awards this season. Image courtesy of Nelson
Neutrals couldn’t have asked for too many better match-ups in the NCAA Championship game than the best defence in the country – Louisville - coming up against a Michigan team which ranks first in offensive efficiency.

It is 20 years since the Fab Five last stepped off a basketball court together after Chris Webber’s now infamous time out call possibly cost the Wolverines a shot at victory in the tournament decider against North Carolina in 1993. It has taken Michigan two decades to get back to the big dance after a series of NCAA penalties and self-imposed punishment after investigations revealed a man running an illegal gambling operation had been playing players, including Webber, as a way of laundering money.

Much like the Fab Five took the world of college basketball by storm as freshmen in 1992, this Michigan team is also full of first- and second-year players. Three freshmen are in the starting line-up, including Glenn Robinson III, the son of former NBA top draft pick Glenn Robinson. But the maestro when it comes to Michigan is sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who was recently named the Naismith Award winner as the best player in the country.

Burke’s match-up with Louisville one guard Peyton Siva will have a huge bearing on the outcome of this game. Siva and backcourt mate Russ Smith make up the best defensive duo in the country. In the Cardinals’ comeback win over Wichita State in the final four, the Shockers gave up a twelve-point advantage on the back of a suffocating full-court press from Louisville. If Burke goes after Siva and gets him in early foul trouble, the Cards are in strife due to the loss of back-up guard Kevin Ware to a horrific broken leg earlier in the tournament. Conversely, Burke averages 3.4 turnovers per game in Wolverines losses, well above his season mark of 2.2 per game, so expect to see him harassed throughout the game.

The best form line for this game comes from both teams having recent showdowns against Syracuse. Michigan shot the lights out to knock the Orange men over on Sunday morning by five points , but Louisville also beat the New Yorkers in the Big East Tournament final. In that match the Cardinals came back from 13 points at the half to storm home 78-61 winners.

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