Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -Louisville is the only top seed making the
trip to Atlanta for this year's Final Four but it will not be the only squad
there flaunting top tier talent.
The Cardinals resembled a wrecking ball after halftime in their regional final
matchup against Duke. After losing sophomore guard Kevin Ware to a gruesome
leg injury, they put on an emotionally charged display to adhere to the orders
yelled out by their fallen teammate as he was carried off on a stretcher.
"Basically, the bone popped out of the skin. It broke in two spots," coach
Rick Pitino said. "Remember the bone is six inches out of his leg, and all
he's yelling is `Win the game, win the game.' I've never seen anything like
Peyton Siva spurred that ran and looked unstoppable as he sped around
defenders on his way to the tin. The Blue Devils looked like they were gonna
be competitive before their backcourt started to crumble against Louisville's
relentless defensive pressure. Pitino's tough defensive principles helped the
Cardinals set the NCAA tournament record with 20 steals in a game. A record
his 1987 Providence team held with 19. Louisville is loaded with NBA bound
talent and is riding a wave of momentum into the national semifinals.
Coming into the tournament, the team from the Missouri Valley Conference
everyone was talking about was Creighton, and for good reason. The Bluejays
were coming off of a win over Wichita State in the conference tournament
championship game led by an impressive performance by All-American Doug
McDermott. Creighton managed to advance to the second round before being sent
home for the summer by Duke.
The Shockers meanwhile, haven't lost since falling to 'Jays. Gregg Marshall's
squad manhandled Pittsburgh, upset a No. 1 seed and then produce a double-
digit victory over La Salle. On Saturday, they jumped out to another big lead
as they had Ohio State on the ropes. The Buckeyes nearly came back late in the
second half, but the Shockers held their ground in the final stages to
"We're so balanced and deep as a team. Each guy brings something new to the
table and I've got great teammates," said freshman guard Fred VanVleet.
"Different people step up at different times and its all about knowing your
VanVleet mad a last minute field goal to help the Shockers survive their head-
to-head with the Buckeyes. Wichita State has got it done in a variety ways, as
it manages to attack the rim when it needs to and also hit on outside jumpers
when granted. It has also been able to set a great example of how to play team
basketball, especially defensively, to this point. The Shockers will once
again be huge underdogs, but they don't seem to mind the role. They knocked
off the Big Ten Conference champion, so why not the Big East's as well?
The other semifinals matchup was also determined on Sunday as Michigan rolled
past Florida. Trey Burke may be the most dynamic player for his size in
college basketball since Allen Iverson wore a Hoyas uniform. The determined
floor general produced 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to follow
up his memorable performance in the Sweet 16 versus Kansas.
The Wolverines may be a four seed, but they were once considered the number
one team in the nation. And that was before the emergence of freshman forward
Mitch McGary, who has been sensational through the run. Nik Stauskas was
unbelievable versus Florida on Sunday, knocking down all six of his 3-point
attempts to help his team collect a 20-point win. This will be the first Final
Four for the school since the Fab Five.
"Seeing it all come together, I don't what to say," sixth-year Wolverines
coach John Beilein said. "I'm a little bit speechless."
It really didn't even all come together on Sunday. The Wolverines not only won
by 20 points, but they did so with their top two weapons submitting sub-par
performances by their standards. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Burke combined to go
8- of-29 from the floor, but Michigan received some much needed help from
reserve Spike Albrecht and Jon Horford, who combined to go 6-of-7 from the
field. The odds that Burke and Hardaway, Jr. both struggling again are not
It will be interesting to see how Burke matches up with Syracuse's Michael
Carter-Williams, whose game resembles a young Anfernee Hardaway. The Orange's
sophomore point guard earned the East Regional MVP award after tallying a
double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a very physical affair against
"I just really can't say enough about how good these guys played on the
defensive end of the court," said head coach Jim Boeheim. " They were just
tremendous, we gave Marquette 74 points four or five weeks ago."
The Golden Eagles' 39 points were a record low for a team in an NCAA
tournament regional final since the shot clock was introduced in 1986.
Syracuse has held its last four opponents to an average of 45.8 pg. It was a
very productive team offensively during the regular season as well with an
average of 71.3 ppg. C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche and James Southerland are all
capable of going off in any given contest. Boeheim's second title could be
imminent if the Orange stay stingy defensively.
Now with just four teams left in the hunt for the national crown, it is still
an open race. Will Wichita State be able to handle Louisville's mother-in-law
defense? Can Burke and company crack Syracuse's 2-3 zone? This March has been
unpredictable, now it's see what April has in store for us.
The Sports Network