Three Reasons Why Michigan Can Beat LouisvillePosted by Deepak Jayanti on April 7th, 2013
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Monday night’s National Championship game features several intriguing match-ups. The nation’s best offense (Michigan) against the best defense (Louisville). A four-year veteran point guard (Peyton Siva) against arguably the best point guard this season (Trey Burke). We could continue with the list of match-ups but the game will not be determined by their strengths, but rather, which team best exploits the other’s weaknesses during the game’s 40 minutes. The following are three key reasons why the Wolverines should have an edge over the Cardinals on Monday night.
- Michigan’s forwards may be too quick for the Louisville frontcourt. The Shockers were a 10-point underdog against Louisville but it was clear after the first eight minutes that the game would go down to the wire because the the Cardinals’ frontcourt - Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear – were having trouble keeping up with quick forards like Cleanthony Early and Mike Hall. Early and Hall dominated the game with 37 points by consistently attacking the basket and running circles around the Cardinal bigs. In case you haven’t heard, Mitch McGary may be the hottest player of the NCAA Tournament and he has great quickness to finish around the basket, which could be a huge Michigan advantage in the title game. Combine McGary’s hot play with Glenn Robinson’s shooting range and both could get Dieng into foul trouble early. On the flip side, it is possible that McGary could pick up quick fouls of his own but it is unlikely because Dieng and Behanan haven’t been very assertive on the offensive end this tournament.
- Michigan has ball-handlers to break Louisville’s full-court press. John Beilein’s team absolutely annihilated VCU’s full-court press because it had multiple ball-handlers who could push the ball to avoid the traps. A four-guard lineup along with McGary inside gives Beilein several options to break the press, and once they break it, the Wolverines are terrific in transition. The Shockers handled the Louisville press fairly well until the last six minutes of the game when they had particular trouble with the inbounds pass but if Rick Pitino chooses to pick up the intensity, Beilein can counter with a pair of heady point guards – Trey Burke and Spike Albrecht. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone couldn’t control the versatile Wolverines offense because it hadn’t faced a team with that many scoring guards/wings and it is likely that the Cardinals’ defense will be surprised by the sheer amount of options on this Michigan squad.
- Russ Smith’s offensive explosiveness can be neutralized with Burke’s ability to take over the game. At some point in the second half, it is highly likely that Smith and Burke will end up trading buckets for a handful of possessions. Porous doesn’t even begin to describe Michigan’s defense and it is almost guaranteed that it will have trouble keeping up with Smith’s quickness in the half-court. There is no formula to stopping Smith but the best way to counter such a run is to hand the keys over to Burke. The Player of the Year didn’t have a signature game against Syracuse, finishing with just seven points, but it is unlikely that he will sit out the entire weekend on the ultimate stage of college basketball. If Smith weaves his way through the lane to score 20 points, Burke can match him bucket for bucket because the Cardinals don’t have anybody who can challenge in the half-court once the press has been broken.