The Final Four in Atlanta is here this Saturday. Louisville and Wichita State battle it out first at 6pm EST, with the Orange and Wolverines taking the floor afterwards.
(1) Louisville -10.5 vs (9) Wichita State
This is an intriguing match up.
On one side we have Louisville. They are the only 1 seed left in the tournament. They were the favorites coming in and remain the favorites now. They have won each of their tournament games with relative easy, the closest being against Oregon which they won by 8 points, while they have averaged a 21.75 point spread between them and their opponent in their four tournament games. They also have injured guard Kevin Ware who gruesomely broke his leg in the Elite Eight game with Duke travelling to Atlanta to give his team even more to play for.
Wichita State on the other hand has been the underdog in three of their four games (they were slight favorites against La Salle) and have found a way to win. They knocked off both Gonzaga and Ohio State, the #1 and #2 seeds in the West division and have been playing an aggressive fun to watch brand of basketball. They are also the poster boy of the small Conferences making the Final Four from the Missouri Valley, which only had them and Creighton in the tournament.
Louisville should be the team to stop Wichita State. They are on a different level in this tournament, and although their only true test against another top team came against Duke in their region, they handled it with ease winning by more than 20 points. I expect Wichita State to push the pace early and stick with Louisville for the first several minutes, but in the second half Louisville will pull away like they always do. They are a team that just does not allow you back into the ball game and they finish strong. Some great proof of this came against another Final Four team, Syracuse, on March 16th when Louisville was down 35-22 at half, but came back to win by a crazy 78-61 score and earn themselves the Big East title. I like Louisville to cover here even though it is a big spread.
Play: Louisville -10.5
(4) Michigan -2.5 vs (4) Syracuse
The Wolverines really should have been out of this tournament in the Sweet Sixteen against Kansas. They were down by 11 with about 3 minutes to go and Trey Burke just took the team on his shoulders and willed them into an overtime win. The following game really showcased the whole team though against a Florida team that may have been given too much credit. Canadian Nik Stauskas shot the lights out going 6 of 6 from beyond the arc to finish with 22 points to lead the team. Burke was also a factor with 15 points, while the other starters also came to play. Overall the team shot over 50% from 3 point land which will will a lot of games in the NCAA.
Syracuse and their 2-3 zone has stymied offenses and is the biggest reason Syracuse finds themselves in the Final Four. California was the team to get the most points against Syracuse in the tournament with just 60. That includes only 50 against Indiana, the second tourney favorite, and 39 against Marquette, a decent 3 seed from the Big East who won 3 more games in the Big East than Syracuse this year. The defenses is mobile and long and will be the key factor for the Orange.
Michigan shot the lights out against Florida and I just don’t see them able to pull that off against Syracuse’s defense. ‘Cuse should be able to get Stauskas and Burke out of rhythm which could be a main factor in who wins this game. I think the Syracuse wins were more impressive to this point in the tournament, just because I see Kansas and Florida as being over hyped, when they maybe weren’t as good as originally thought. I like Syracuse in this one plus the points. It should be a low scoring game, so it could come down to a point or two as to who wins this game, so either way Syracuse +2.5 would be the winning play.
Play: Syracuse +2.5