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Breaking down NCAA championship game

Mon., April 8, 2013

Louisville (34-5)

Road to the Final Four

Beat No. 16 North Carolina A&T 79-48; beat No. 8 Colorado State 82-56; beat No. 12 Oregon 77-69; beat No. 2 Duke 85-63; beat No. 9 Wichita State 72-68.

Semifinal star

Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers, each bigger than the one before. Hancock had scored in double figures just once in the tournament and that was 10 points against Duke.

Key point

The Cardinals again showed they are a resilient team, rallying from 12 points down with 13:36 to play against the Shockers. That wasn’t quite as impressive as the Big East tournament championship game when Louisville rallied from a 16-point deficit with 15:51 to play to win by 17. Their 15-game winning streak is their longest since 2003-04.

Michigan (31-7)

Road to the Final Four

Beat No. 13 South Dakota State 71-56; beat No. 5 VCU 78-53; beat No. 1 Kansas 87-85, OT; beat No. 3 Florida 79-59; beat No. 4 Syracuse 61-56.

Semifinal star

Freshman forward Mitch McGary had 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against Syracuse and it was during the 4 minutes he was out after picking up his third foul that the Orange started to make their run. McGary didn’t become a starter until the NCAA tournament and he is averaging 17.0 points and 11.6 rebounds in the five games.

Key point

Their youth didn’t seem to bother the Wolverines against Syracuse and they have plenty of guards available to handle Louisville’s pressure. Burke has had big games following off ones and that should worry Louisville since he missed seven of his eight shots against Syracuse.

The skinny

There will be plenty of good guards in the championship game and Michigan will need every one of them to handle Louisville’s relentless pressure. Handling McGary inside will be key and that means Louisville will need a big game from center Gorgui Dieng who took just one shot and blocked just two in 30 minutes in the semifinal.

The pick

Louisville seems like a different team with the way the bench delivered 34 points and allowed the Cardinals to rally. Michigan can’t feel comfortable even if takes an early lead. It would be crazy to pick against Pitino with the run he’s on: Louisville 72-61.

Jim O’Connell, Associated Press

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