NCAA Championship Preview
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR: Beat No. 16 North Carolina A&T 79-48; beat No. 8 Colorado State 82-56; beat No. 12 Oregon 77-69; beat No. 2 Duke 85-63; beat No. 9 Wichita State 72-68.
SEMIFINAL STAR: Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers, each bigger than one before. Hancock had scored in double figures just once in the tournament and that was 10 points against Duke.
UNKNOWN STAR: Tim Henderson, who had scored six points since Christmas, hit two 3- pointers when the Cardinals were down 12 points to turn the tide against Wichita State.
COACH: Rick Pitino is the only coach to have taken three different schools to the Final Four (Kentucky, Providence) and he has a chance to become the first coach to win a national championship at two schools (Kentucky, 1996).
KEY POINT: The Cardinals again showed they are a resilient team, rallying from 12 points down with 13:36 to play against the Shockers. That wasn’t quite as impressive as the Big East tournament championship game when Louisville rallied from a 16-point deficit with 15:51 to play to win by 17. Their 15-game winning streak is their longest since 2003-04.
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR: Beat No. 13 South Dakota State 71-56; beat No. 5 VCU 78-53; beat No. 1 Kansas 87-85, OT; beat No. 3 Florida 79-59; beat No. 4 Syracuse.
SEMIFINAL STAR: Freshman forward Mitch McGary had 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against Syracuse. McGary didn’t become a starter until the NCAA tournament and he is averaging 17.0 points and 11.6 rebounds in the five games.
UNKNOWN STAR: Freshman guard Caris Levert, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, had eight points and four rebounds in 21 minutes against Syracuse.
COACH: John Beilein is in his first Final Four and he drew praise from fellow coaches for the way Wolverines handled Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and the Orange’s comeback bid.
KEY POINT: Their youth didn’t seem to bother the Wolverines against Syracuse and they have plenty of guards available to handle Louisville’s pressure. Burke has had big games following off ones and that should worry Louisville since he missed seven of his eight shots against Syracuse.
THE PICK: Michigan can’t feel comfortable even if takes an early lead. It would be crazy to pick against Pitino with the run he’s on: Louisville 72-61.