Final Four Excitement Saturday in Atlanta
Four teams are left to fight for the National Championship. Hard fought games have given Louisville, Syracuse, Wichita State, and Michigan a chance to cut down the nets Monday night.
The first game tips off about 3 p.m. Saturday, and features tournament favorite Louisville and the Wichita State Shockers.
Louisville’s match-up zone will pressure the Shockers over the whole court. They’re relentless. Those who played against the Cardinals say that “no one plays like them”. A gruesome injury to Louisville’s Kevin Ware will have him on the sideline cheering his team to victory.
Louisville’s offense is experienced and finishes well. They are not the best shooting team in the tournament, but they screen well and create opportunities for second shots. They are great in transition. Outlet passes to their guards, Smith and Siva, are quickly converted to lay-ups or dunks. Going the other way they press the ball, forcing turnovers or contested long passes.
The key to beating the Cardinals is beating their guards, and no one has done that yet.
Louisville may be the muscle, but Wichita State is the heart of the Final Four.
Undersized, the Shockers depend on outside shooting. When one player begins a 3-point shooting spree, the other four seem to heat up as well. They feed off of each other. A good number of their 3’s come in transition, and therein may lie the problem.
Louisville’s guards are simply too good at playing defense and pressing full court. This, linked with superior experience, should put the Cardinals in Monday night’s final game.
The second game, which is scheduled to tip off just before 6 p.m., features the day’s most interesting match-up. Syracuse’ impenetrable defense challenges a relentless Michigan offense led by Trey Burke.
The Orangemen have allowed only 61 field goals by the other teams. Steals and blocked shots totaled 69. In only one quarter of one game did they allow more than 28 points. Syracuse created 67 turnovers and allowed only 14 three point baskets.
Defense and transition baskets are the key to victory for Jim Boeheim’s team. No one has been able to devise a scheme that can disrupt “Boeheim’s Blockade”.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo pronounces Michigan the best three point shooting team in the Final Four. Against Syracuse, they will have to be. The Orangemen don’t believe in allowing lay-ups. But Trey Burke presents a different problem for them. He is probably the best point guard in basketball. He shoots well, sees the whole court, passes well, and creates opportunities for his teammates to score.
I’m a defensive guy. If the Wolverines do not have a “hot hand” from beyond the arc Saturday, Syracuse will face Louisville Monday night.
For me March Madness ends all too soon. The “one-and-done” format is exciting and definitive. With professional basketball and now baseball having never-ending playoffs, it is unique to see the pressure packed format of the college game. Saturday’s games will hopefully see all four teams at their best. Their coaches will have them ready, that I’m sure of.
Columnist-The Guardian Express