Louisville vs. Michigan: Previewing Monday’s Showdown
Two tremendous coaches, two balanced teams, and only one trophy.
If Michigan can hold Smith under 20 and force someone else to score consistently in a half-court set, they’d be in pretty good shape. But no team in the tournament has been able to do that yet.
If Louisville can keep Michigan uncomfortable on the perimeter like Syracuse did (Michigan was held to 61 points Saturday), then the Wolverines will have trouble keeping pace with the Cardinals on the scoreboard.
Louisville’s press has been their bread and butter since Pitino took over, but the press hasn’t been much of an obstacle for the Wolverines this year. Granted the Cardinals run a more deadly press than VCU, but with ball handlers like Burke and Albrecht, and smart guards like Hardaway and Stauskas, turnovers are a rarity for the Wolverines. Keeping that in mind, Louisville is going to need those 20+ points from Smith in the halfcourt set, along with big games from Siva and Hancock. And with how well Cleanthony Early played against Dieng on Saturday, Louisville will need their big man to step up his defense against McGary, or the hard-working Freshman will give Coach Pitino headaches all night.
The outcome is going to depend on a lot of elements: who has the hot hand from beyond the arc, which team can move the ball better in the halfcourt set, which team can stay out of foul trouble. But all in all, McGary’s inside scoring and Burke’s tenacity in the clutch give the Wolverines a small edge in my eyes. The Cardinals have only had one game decided by 5 or less points in the past month (Saturday vs. Wichita State), while the Wolverines had just about every late season Big Ten game come down to the wire, and needed to overcome a seemingly insurmountable late-game deficit in the Sweet 16 to move on.
Final Prediction: Michigan 78, Louisville 70