Even the casual fan knows that an NCAA basketball tournament doesn’t officially end until the “One Shining Moment” montage is unveiled.
On that note, the 2013 tourney officially comes to the end with this…
No. 1 overall seed Louisville completed a dominant run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament by pulling away from Michigan in the national championship game.
With the 82-76 win, Louisville earned its third national basketball championship and Rick Pitino, who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, becomes the first head coach to win a championship with two different programs 17 years after his title at Kentucky.
With 664 wins, two titles and an NBA stint under his belt, Pitino has pretty much seen it all on a basketball court. Heck, just the other week he witnessed a snapped tibia protruding through one of his player’s leg, so it’s pretty safe to assume that not much phases the man.
Unannounced celebratory fireworks, though, now those are scary…
For a minute there Rick Pitino thought he had been set up like the Joe Pesci character in “Goodfellas.”
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) April 9, 2013
Michigan got off to a great start behind the phenomenal shooting of Spike Albrecht, but Louisville quickly erased a 10-point first half deficit with some hot shooting from Luke Hancock and went into the half down just one after what was likely the run that changed the game.
Hancock, who lifted Louisville over Wichita State in the Final Four on Saturday, came up huge again in a game where the usual suspects were nowhere to be found for large stretches of the night. The junior swingman finished with an incredible 22 points on just six field goal attempts two days after dropping 20 on the Shockers to take home the Most Outstanding Player award for the Final Four.
Luke Hancock’s five 3-pointers are the most by anyone without a miss in a national championship game.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 9, 2013
Peyton Siva may not have shot the ball nearly as well as Hancock did, but the point guard was a major factor for the Cardinals on both ends of the floor, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals while being cheered on by the most enthusiastic parent of the tournament…
For Michigan, there’s no shame in defeat. The Wolverines entered the tournament as the youngest team in the 68-team field and gave the Cardinals all they could handle in the championship game with the Fab Five in attendance (though Chris Webber didn’t sit with the other four). In addition, Trey Burke finished the season with a Wooden Award and Naismith Award to his name and Mitch McGary made a name for himself as a potential NBA prospect.
Thoughts of what might have been had Burke not been limited to just 26 minutes in the championship game because of foul trouble will surely haunt Michigan and its fans for years, however, especially when the fourth foul was clearly not a foul…
That play was a fitting end to the tournament for NCAA officials who seriously dropped the ball over the last few weeks.
Anyway, back to the champs.
In a season that was defined by parity and the lack of a clear cut No. 1 team, Louisville turned the script upside down in the tournament, cruising into the Final Four virtually untouched before erasing double-digit deficits against both Wichita State and Michigan once there.
In the end, Pitino’s Cardinals ensured that the lasting image of the 2013 tourney would not be of Kevin Ware writhing on the floor in pain, but rather of Ware on crutches, cutting down a net that had been lowered for him.
One shining moment, indeed.
Tonight’s championship game has been an absolute thriller chalk full of big shots and big plays. So naturally, Tim Hardaway Jr. wanted to get in on the action for Michigan…
You know it’s going to be a thunderous finish when even Gorgui Dieng decides to let it go without attempting a block.
Florida Gulf Coast may have a rival for alley-oop of the tournament, and it comes from Louisville on the last night of the tourney…
After Michigan jumped out to a 31-21 lead on the back of some ridiculous shooting from Spike Albrecht, Louisville quickly got back in the game with some equally impressive marksmanship from Luke Hancock.
The Cardinals then finally took the lead when Peyton Siva stole the ball and threw this pass up for Montrezl Harrell, who finished the play with an absolutely thunderous jam.
68 teams have been whittled down to two, and tonight, Louisville takes on Michigan for the right to be called 2013 NCAA men’s basketball champions.
No. 1 Louisville (Midwest Region) vs. No. 4 Michigan (South Region)
Start time: 9:23 p.m. et
Broadcast team: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson
Michigan’s offence vs. Louisville’s defence: In terms of team strengths, it’s tough to ask for a better matchup. Michigan takes the third-most efficient offence in the country (1.13 points per possession) and an offence that was tested against Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone into the championship game, while Louisville boasts the third-ranked defence in terms of defensive efficiency (0.847 points allowed per possession). The Wolverines take care of the ball better than any other team in the nation, committing just 9.4 turnovers per game (they turned it over 10 times against Syracuse) while the Cardinals force the second most opponent turnovers per game at 18.4. Any way you look at it, this is a perfect matchup.
Having said all of that, I’m a firm believer in great defence overcoming a great offence and the general rule that defence wins championships, and on that note, I’ll take Louisville tonight.
(All stats courtesy of teamrankings.com)
Player of the year vs. player of the tournament: Michigan’s Trey Burke took home the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award as the NCAA player of the year for 2012-13, but there’s little debate that Louisville’s Russ Smith has been the player of the 2013 tournament so far, averaging 25 points per game on 50 per cent shooting through five games. If Smith goes for 20 points or more tonight, he’ll become just the fifth player in tournament history to score 20 or more in all six games of one tournament.
While Smith and Burke enjoy most of the hype, don’t sleep on Wolverines freshman big man Mitch McGary, who can stake his own claim to player of the tournament with a big game tonight.
Kevin Ware watch: Whether you want to or not, if the Final Four was any indication, be prepared to see and hear a lot about Kevin Ware tonight. The camera will frequently find itself on Ware sitting on the sidelines, the commentators are sure to discuss both the impact of Ware’s absence and the emotional lift of having him on the bench multiple times throughout the broadcast, and at the very end, win or lose, we’ll probably see a touching moment between an emotional Ware and a family member.
Don’t blame Ware for the overplay though. He deserves better after handling one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history like a champion.
Pitino chasing history: Rick Pitino is going to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year, but he can add another chapter to his story of greatness with a Louisville win tonight as the only coach to win a national championship with two difference programs. On that note, make sure you check out some of the best Pitino has to offer before the game tips off.