Louisville Takes Home the National Championship, Defeating Michigan 82-76
If you had any doubts that the 2013 NCAA National Championship game would live up to the hype surrounding it, you were terribly wrong. Louisville came out on top in what was a grueling, fast paced showdown of the two best teams in the country. The game was truly a showcase of what college basketball is all about.
The brightest star of all played for the losing team Monday night. Trey Burke assured college basketball fans that he deserved the Wooden Award, signifying the best college basketball player of the year. Burke was a beast, scoring 24 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Only a sophomore, Burke carried his team throughout the game, almost willing them to victory. Absent for the Wolverines was freshman center Mitch McGary, who only scored 6 points. McGary was a surprise standout leading up to the championship game, but dealt with foul trouble all game and disappeared late.
Michigan received a major boost from freshman Spike Albrecht who came into the game scoring 1.8 ppg. Coach John Beilein must have seen something in Albrecht, as he hit on his first 4 three pointers from Jimmer Fredette range. Albrecht had 17 points, but failed to score in the second half.
Louisville won the National Championship the way they've played all year. They've played with relentless pressure all season, creating turnovers and disrupting offenses. Senior Peyton Siva stepped up for the Cardinals when they needed it most. During a 3 minute stretch, Siva scored 8 straight points on layups and dunks. He filled out his stat line with 4 steals, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Luke Hancock finished with 22 points, leading Louisville's deep bench. He made 5-5 three pointers, which all seemed to come in big moments. Hancock was named the Final Four's most outstanding player, combining in both games for 42 points.
The Cardinals may have won this game despite Russ Smith's horrific effort. He shot a miserable 3-16 from the field and didn't add much else to his team's efforts. His disappearance was a bit of shock for Louisville fans, after he scored 102 combined points in his last 4 tournament games.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino wins his second National Championship, becoming the first coach to win the title at different schools. Pitino won at Kentucky in 1996. The coach was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame Monday morning.
The Cardinals drew a significant amount of inspiration from their injured teammate Kevin Ware. Ware suffered a cringe-worthy injury against Duke, but sat by his team during the Final Four. Ware encouraged his teammates to win for him.
The Championship games ends an incredible 2012-13 season. We've seen a tremendous amount of upsets, stars emerging, and a tournament that trumped years past. The next question becomes which of these teams has the best shot to get to this point next season. Louisville will lose senior Peyton Siva and could likely lose Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng to the NBA Draft. Louisville was remarkably deep this year, but without Smith and Siva, I could see them struggle next year. Michigan looks to be a better bet to reach the Final Four next year. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have the option to go pro, but they may return seeking redemption next season. Michigan has an abundance of talented freshmen including Nick Stauskas and Mitch McGary. Assuming this team stays intact, which I don't think is entirely realistic, they could very well be Final Four bound next year.
And lastly, just to make sure that readers recognize that I chose Louisville to win it all when the tournament started, take a look at my tournament preview from a few weeks ago. I didn't get the rest of the Final Four, but the Cardinals' win saved my bracket.