We know who’s going to Atlanta on Saturday but who’ll be playing for all the marbles in the Georgia Dome on Monday night? Al Dannity makes his call on the Final Four.
The supposedly easier game to call is more complicated than you might think. On the one hand we have Louisville. They were the 1 overall seed entering the tournament and over two weekends they have played like a team worthy of that billing. This is a team with the players needed to win big games. They’ve got a coach who has been there and done that. Oh and there’s also their system, or rather their ability to change systems mid-play. These guys are good; you don’t need me to tell you that. Wichita State is far from your typical plucky 9 seed. The Shockers weren’t my pick to get this far but they haven’t been lucky to get here. This is a team that players classic tournament Basketball. It’s hard-nosed, physical, and clinical. Over four games the Shockers have out-smarted and out-fought each of their opponents. You don’t toss them aside lightly.
The problem I see for Wichita State is the specific match-up. Against Syracuse or Michigan, I might well consider picking them for the upset. The Cardinals however are built almost specifically to withstand a team like the Shockers. Much like VCU’s havoc was irrelevant against the Wolverines, the Shockers won’t be able to out-system Louisville. That means this game will come down to pure talent and coaching. The Cardinals come out clearly on top in both categories. I like them to advance.
The other game should be a pick’em. The Orange have shed a rough month heading into March to put together a strong series of performances. This is the type of Jim Boeheim team that opponents fear in the regular season only they’ve saved their best for the Big Dance. Michigan are in the Final Four for the first time since the Fab Five era. The balance of talent across the Wolverines’ line-up, yes they have more than Trey Burke, may be their most under-rated asset. This is a team that can hurt opponents in a variety of ways. Possibly of greater importance, they are built to fight back when the chips are down. That’s going to count for an awful lot against the Orange. This is a really good Syracuse team and an all-Big East final would be a great way to silence critics who said it was a down year for the conference. Getting two teams to the Final Four will have to suffice. Michigan to advance.
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