1. First Half: Unsung Heroes
Michigan held a 12-point lead with about two minutes remaining in the first-half; Louisville player Luke Hancock scored 14 unanswered points, including four consecutive three pointers, to allow the Cardinals to creep back into the game. After punctuating the run with a Harrell alley-oop, the Cardinals took a one-point lead. But undeterred, Michigan forced the issue sending Glenn Robinson III to the free throw line. And though the run at the end of the half surely put confidence into the Louisville locker room, it was the play of Michigan’s unsung hero Spike Albrecht that had Michigan running on all cylinders in the first half. The freshman went six for seven from the field with four three pointers of his own. Michigan was beating Louisville without major contributions from their main guys, which boded well for them heading into the second half.
2. Second Half: This one is for Kevin Ware
The second half shaped up to be much like a playground matchup, where five of the best players from your neighbourhood matched up against their crosstown rivals. Mistakes were forgiven because they were made with effort. Some of the best ball handlers in college drove to the hoop at will. And the smooth silky strokes of the best shooters in the country tightened up with the game on the line. Siva made some unbelievable layups for Louisville, while Tim Hardaway Jr. did this in the middle of the game.
Over the last ten minutes, the big bodies of Louisville wrecked havoc on Michigan’s small ball game, taking a seven-point lead with four minutes remaining. In the end, it was too many offensive rebounds for Louisville, a 15-8 advantage, which ultimately sealed the game.
And all eyes were on Kevin Ware as the confetti fell, who despite his gruesome injury before the Final Four, spurned on his teammates by telling them “I’ll be ok, go out and win this game.” They did just that and carried it into Atlanta.
3. NBA Draft Prospects
Michigan point-guard Trey Burke is a definite lottery pick, and could go number one depending on which team gets the slot. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III are at least a year away, but should be solid picks in 2014 if they don’t declare early. For Louisville, someone will take a chance on Russ Smith in the first round, even if he is undersized. Defensive centre Gorgui Dieng has the chance to either be a Hasheem Thabeet or a Serge Ibaka, and probably should have one more year as a senior to reach his full potential. But in what is being projected as a weak draft class, Dieng may decide to make his move now. Senior Peyton Siva may also be worth a look and his monster game in the final certainly improved his stock. Until next year!