Louisville vs. Michigan: Previewing Monday’s Showdown
On Monday, Rick Pitino’s havoc-creating defense matches up against John Beilein’s low-turnover, efficient offense. Who’s coming away victorious? Let’s take a look at the game’s key elements first….
Trey Burke vs. Russ Smith
Burke and Smith are the top scorers on the two teams. Although they won’t be guarding each other, both teams need their leading scorers to have a big night Monday in order to take the crown.
Smith has been a scoring machine so far this tournament, with a minimum of 21 points in each of Louisville’s five tournament games. He struggled a bit from the field (6-17) and from the line (5-12) against Wichita State, but still posted 21 points, nearly a third of his team’s 72 on the night.
Burke has had a rollercoaster of a tournament from a scoring standpoint, with the Kansas game serving the perfect example of his dualities on the offensive end. He went scoreless in the first half against Kansas, only to score 23 points in the second half and overtime, including the deep three that shook up the entire South Regional. Burke scored double-digits in all of Michigan’s regular season and Big Ten Tournament games this year, averaging 18.5 on the season, but in the NCAA Tournament so far, Burke has scored in single digits twice, including a 1-8 performance against Syracuse on Saturday. Of course he brings a lot more to the table than just scoring, by spreading the ball around on offense and terrorizing opposing point guards on defense (ask Carter-Williams about that one), but the Wolverines will need his scoring punch to keep pace with a Louisville team that’s scored at least 72 points in all five of their tournament games.
Mitch McGary vs. Gorgui Dieng
McGary has been a double-double machine so far this tournament. If it weren’t for Burke’s heroics against Kansas, McGary would probably be the frontrunner for Tournament MVP if the Wolverines were to win on Monday. He’s hit 37 of his 53 field goals in the Tournament and is averaging 11.6 rebounds per game. Plus his hustle on the defensive end has been huge for the Wolverines.
Dieng is a defensive gamechanger. Just ask Michigan State who fell to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament last year behind Dieng’s 7 blocked shots. He’s also a top-notch rebounder, who averaged 9.4 a game this season for the Cardinals.
Overall, it’s going to be a battle on the boards and down on the block.