2013 Final Four: Michigan Defeats Syracuse To Advance To Championship Game

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

By Jesse Kramer

Well, after five months of basketball, the national championship game is finally set. On Monday night, Louisville, the No. 1 seed from the Midwest Region, will face Michigan, the No. 4 seed from the South. Louisville knocked off Wichita State, 72-68, in the first semifinal, and Michigan outlasted Syracuse, 61-56, later in the night.

The emergence of forward Mitch McGary continued to be a main storyline in Michigan’s win. McGary struggled during large parts of the regular season, but he played well in two Big Ten tournament games and has become a dominant force in the NCAA tournament. On Saturday night, the freshman had 10 points, 12 rebounds, a career-high six assists and two blocks, bringing his Big Dance averages to 16 points, 11.6 boards over five games. Of course, multiple other Michigan players have had great performances in this year’s NCAA tournament, but without McGary, the Wolverines very possibly could have been knocked out by South Dakota State in the Round of 64. Surely they would have been eliminated by Kansas in the Sweet 16 without his production.

Michigan also received great bench production, particularly from freshmen Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. In the first half, Albrecht and LeVert combined for four three-pointers. LeVert, who had not scored since March 3 against Michigan State, finished with eight points, four rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes.

As it seems has been the case with every game in this year’s tournament, there was some questionable officiating down the stretch. Michael Carter-Williams appeared to draw a charge on Tim Hardaway Jr. as Hardaway Jr. extended his arm into MCW’s chest, but the referees instead called a blocking foul. With Syracuse trailing 58-56 in the final minute, Brandon Triche drove to the basket and was called for a charge, although replay showed that Jordan Morgan clearly slid underneath Triche after Triche had already taken off for the layup.

When Michigan faces Louisville on Monday, it will be a matchup between the best offense and the best defense, between superb ball control and turnover-inducing pressure. The Wolverines rank No. 1 in Kenpom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, and the Cardinals hold the top spot in defensive efficiency. Michigan also has the No. 1 offensive turnover rate at 14.5% while Louisville’s defensive turnover rate ranks No. 2 at 27.5%, behind only Virginia Commonwealth. Michigan faced Virginia Commonwealth in the Round of 32 and easily handled the Rams’ pressure. If the Wolverines handle Louisville’s defensive pressure that well, their chances of cutting down the nets in Atlanta are quite good.

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