Three weeks ago, 64 teams had a dream of dancing through the NCAA Bracket, and making the Final Four. The four teams that have made that dream a reality are the Michigan Wolverines, Syracuse Orange, Louisville Cardinals, and the cinderella story, the Wichita State Shockers. Tomorrow four will be down to two, and on Monday night, we will have a new NCAA Tournament champion! Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Louisville vs. Wichita State
How the Cardinals Can Win: Louisville seems like the team of destiny here. The Cardinals were already the favorites to make the Final Four out of their bracket, before the gruesome injury to Kevin Ware. Now, the Cardinals will rally around Ware in hopes of bringing Rick Patino his second NCAA title, and it certainly looks like they will be doing that. Louisville pretty much cruised through their bracket, with their closes result being a 77-69 win over Oregon. Louisville has lost one game since the end of January, and I don’t see that changing this weekend. Louisville is just too good.
How the Shockers Can Win: Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Wichita State’s improbable run is how good they’ve looked doing it. The Shockers crushed Pittsburgh to start the tournament, then pulled the first huge upset, knocking off top seeded Gonzaga. After cruising by La Salle, they then went on to beat up Ohio State, leading by 13 at halftime, and by as much as 20 in the second half. Senior guard Malcom Armstead has been a huge factor in this Final Four run, logging an impressive line of 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals against Ohio State. Wichita State has to use their speed to counteract Louisville’s size, and prevent Louisville from running the high paced game they love to play.
Our Prediction: Here’s the problem with these cinderella Final Four stories of recent year. They almost always loss in this round, and it’s usually not very pretty. George Mason started it in 2006, but were never really close in a 73-58 loss to Florida. #11 VCU had a great Final Four matchup with #8 Butler, but fell short, losing 70-62. I think that the Shockers will suffer a similar fate here. Louisville is just too good, and with the Ware injury now serving as extra motivation, the Cardinals look unstoppable. Louisville wins 70-58.
Syracuse vs. Michigan
How the Wolverines Can Win: Our bracket predictions a few weeks ago didn’t turn out terribly, as our National Champion Louisville is still alive, but this is one big prediction that we nailed: Michigan in the Final Four. The Wolverines have had an interesting run to the Final Four. The Wolverines cruised by South Dakota State and VCU to get to the Sweet 16, before making a huge comeback to knock off Kansas. From there, they crushed Florida, a team that many thought would give them trouble. Of course, Trey Burke is the key here. Burke recently won the Wooden Award for player of the year, and even though Michigan isn’t the best team left, they do have the best player. It wouldn’t be the first time that one player has carried a team to the title, as their opponents know very well.
How the Orange Can Win: The Orange have been perennial powerhouses for years now, but this is their first trip to the Final Four since their title run in 2003. Jim Boeheim is one of the greatest coaches of all time, regardless of the sport. Boeheim has been the head man at Syracuse for 27 years now, and he hasn’t shown any signs of stopping. The theme of this year’s crop of Final Four teams seems to be the domination of their bracket. Syracuse’s closest game was their 66-60 win over Cal in the Round of 32, and they crushed Marquete 55-39 in the Elite Eight. The Orange have four players averaging more then 12 points a game, and they can hurt you from virtually anywhere. Either of these teams will be a worthy adversary to Louisville.
Our Prediction: Unlike the other matchup, I think this matchup could go either way. Both teams have storied legacies in the NCAA, and both have looked good enough to beat anyone in the tournament. Trey Burke is the best player in the matchup, so I give Michigan the slight edge there. However, Jim Boeheim has the Final Four experience that no one else in this matchup has. For that, I have to give the slight edge to Syracuse. This one could be a classic, in a tournament that for the most part, has been full of blowouts. Syracuse wins 68-65.
Finals: Louisville vs. Syracuse
You can probably guess who we think will be winning here. Three weeks ago, we predicted that Louisville would be cutting down the nets in the Georgia Dome this weekend, and I don’t see that changing now. The Cardinals have the most stacked team left in the field, and let’s not forget that Louisville was in the Final Four just last year. I think they will avenge their loss in the Final Four last year, and hoist the trophy on Monday.
What do you think will happen? Does Wichita State have a shot at knocking off Louisville? Let us know in the comments!