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Final Four Preview

Men's-2013-NCAA-Final-Four-Logo

Kentucky fans may want to forget, but the Final Four is rapidly approaching with one of the worst possible scenarios potentially coming to fruition. Of course, I’m talking about Louisville being the overwhelming favorite to take home their first national title since 1986. You probably don’t want it to happen, but unfortunately, I think Kentucky fans must come to terms with the fact that Louisville is probably going to cut down the nets. While the Cardinals are heavy favorites, believe it or not, there’s still basketball to be played. Michigan, Syracuse, and Wichita State have all been playing high level basketball over the past number of weeks and certainly have a shot at taking home the hardware if things fall their way. Even though our Wildcats are noticeably absent from college basketball’s greatest spectacle for the first time in two seasons, here’s a preview of all four teams and what to watch for as a neutral observant.

Wichita State

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The 9th seeded Shockers of Wichita State are the Cinderella of the remaining four teams. You may knock them for their seed, but their path to the Final Four was as tough as anyone’s. Gregg Marshall’s squad took down 1-seed Gonzaga, 2-seed Ohio State, and computer metric titan, Pittsburgh along their unlikely path to the Final Four. Marshall’s team also defeated opponents by an average of 10.5 points per game, the smallest margin of anyone entering Atlanta. Their offense is headlined by 6-foot-8 Cleanthony Early. On the season, the junior forward is averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game.  He also obtains these numbers efficiently, shooting 79% from the charity stripe, 53% from the interior, and 31% from the perimeter. If you want to draw comparisons to a player, think of Early as Wichita’s version of Deshaun Thomas. Though not a perfect comparison due to fouling, Early compiled very comparable numbers to the similarly sized Thomas over the course of the season. The Shocker’s defensive rebounding is the strength of the team, allowing opponents to pull down 26% of potential offensive boards (11th nationally). This is a total team effort as 6 players on their roster pull down over three rebounds per game. While this squad has certainly proved they can play with anyone, Ken Pomeroy’s numbers give Wichita a 17% chance of advancing to the championship game, so it would be (brace yourself) “shocking” if they were to advance.

Michigan

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Fresh off an absolute dismantling of Florida, John Beilein’s Michigan squad enters the Final Four with an average margin of victory of 15.5 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. While the Wolverines are a shaky defensive squad at times, their offense may be enough to overcome that issue. According to Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, Michigan is the most efficient offense in the nation, scoring 121.9 points per 100 possessions. An offense this efficient is always accomplished by the work of many, but they’re led by National Player of the Year candidate, Trey Burke. On the year, Burke is totaling 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game.  His percentages are off the charts as well, shooting 38% from three, 51% from two, and 81% from the line. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Burke is his ability to maintain possession relative to how much he handles the ball. While using nearly 30% of team possessions (Russ Smith-like), he only loses the rock 2.2 times per game, which ensures Michigan maximizes every possession. While the Wolverines can score, their defense is a bit suspect, ranking 35th nationally in terms of efficiency. They don’t do much at an elite level, but they do rank 1st nationally in defensive free throw rate, meaning Syracuse isn’t likely to get free points from the charity stripe. Despite their defensive numbers, the Wolverines are given a 51% chance of reaching the finals.

Syracuse

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Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange rolled into the Final Four with an average margin of victory of 20 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. Whereas their next opponent, Michigan, got to Atlanta with offense, the Orange got here with tenacious defense. As it stands, Syracuse is ranked 5th overall in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom.com, allowing only 85.8 points per 100 possessions. This is solely due to the famed 2-3 zone which forces opponents to take poor shots and turn the ball over at a high rate. In fact, they rank 4th and 19th in those categories respectively. Steals aren’t the only way they defend either, as is Boeheim tradition, Syracuse is ranked 1st nationally in block percentage, swatting nearly 20% of opponent two point attempts. As is common with shot blocking teams, Syracuse possesses tremendous length in the frontcourt with seven players over 6-foot-6. While not the team’s leading scorer, 6-foot-6 guard, Michael Carter-Williams, is the straw that stirs the Orange’s drink. In 2013, the sophomore averaged 12.1 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. While not a very efficient shooter from anywhere on the floor, his passing and general awareness on the court guides their offense. According to Pomeroy’s numbers the Orange have a 49% chance of advancing to the finals.

Louisville

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Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals are the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, and for good reason.  For starters they’re on a 14-game win streak dating back to February 14th. Secondly, they’ve beat their first four NCAA opponents by an average of 21.7 points per game. Such a convincing margin is accomplished with the best defense since efficiency metrics began in 2003.  According to Pomeroy’s numbers, the Cardinals allow a smothering 81.6 points per 100 possessions. It’s never been a secret, but such a defense is done with immense pressure from all positions of the floor. Currently, the Cardinals force turnovers on 27.5% of opponent possessions, behind only Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams. If opponents somehow make it past their pressure and into the lane, they’ll be greeted by tremendous rim protector, Gorgui Dieng (2.5 blocks per game).  If you were to tell me one year ago that Louisville’s offense could be described as a “pick your poison” type of offense, I would’ve openly mocked you, however, they’ve become just that in the span of one season.  Whereas last year’s Final Four team was ranked 103rd in offense, this year’s team is ranked 5th, speaking volumes of Rick Pitino’s coaching job. If you choose to put defensive resources on Russ Smith (18.9 ppg), you open yourself up to the distributing ability of Peyton Siva, which is a highly dangerous strategy. In order to beat the Cardinals, one must reduce them into a half-court perimeter shooting competition as they only connect on 32.8% of threes. Of course, this may not even be enough as their defense is just too tough. The numbers say Louisville is the runaway favorite for the title, and it’s difficult to disagree.

Article written by Jonathan Schuette

27 Comments for Final Four Preview



  1. tdogg40330
    8:39 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    GO Wichita St, Michigan and Syracuse



  2. UKBlue1!
    8:45 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    I hate UofL.



  3. bosshog
    8:48 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Could we please stop acting like this is the end of the world with Louisville. I think Louisville is getting about as much press on this blog as it is in the media in Louisville. Is this some kind of group therapy venue? Louisville hasn’t won anything of significance since 1986, for crying out loud, and KSR and a lot of you are acting like this is some kind of disaster-it isn’t! And stop feeding the beast by making Louisville fans think it is. We had a bad year after winning our third title and sixth final four since Louisville last won. And next year things will be back to normal and we’re going to beat their damn brains out. So, let’s take it like champions who know we’re still boss, and quit all this damn whining.



  4. tdogg40330
    8:49 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    2) I hate UL too …



  5. tdogg40330
    8:51 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    3) where in this post did you see someone whining about UL??



  6. UKBlue1!
    8:52 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    #4 GO Wichita St, Michigan and Syracuse



  7. tdogg40330
    8:53 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    6) lol, ya damn skippy



  8. Ridge Runner
    8:56 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Agreed Tdogg… Time to SHOCK the world!



  9. Ridge Runner
    8:57 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Cuse winning is kinda a sickening thought too.



  10. bosshog
    8:57 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    5, What? Your brain has indeed been eaten by the Walking Dead!



  11. Steve Fitts
    8:59 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! C-A-R-D-S! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!



  12. Ridge Runner
    9:00 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Umm… we have to do something with that Wichita St logo too. eh…ummm….ya know?



  13. Ridge Runner
    9:01 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    11…uh…no, we won’t join them.



  14. The other big blue
    9:09 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Michigan will be your national champion. Write it down. What do you require to win the national championship? Great guard play. While Louisville certainly has that as well, I believe both Smith and Siva havent played a guard combo like Burke and Hardaway Jr all season and Burke is the kind of player that can break that press. Im telling you, Michigan is your champ. UofL 71 Michigan 77



  15. SeoulCat
    9:37 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Odds that Louisville doesn’t win it all > Odds that Louisville wins it all

    Let’s stop acting as if it’s a foregone conclusion that the dirty birds will cut down the nets. Syracuse and Michigan are both more than capable of beating U of L in the title game, and Wichita State, while not a likely winner in the semifinal match-up, still has a chance (albeit small) of advancing (possible scenarios which could yield such a result: U of L has a horrible shooting night, Russ Smith breaks his leg, Gorgui gets deported, etc.).



  16. Rixter
    10:04 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    I hear Louisville might be in deep sh*t for selling Kevin Ware Tshirts. Now, wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony if they won a championship and had it vacated by the NCAA??????

    Amazing.



  17. theSkinny81
    10:09 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    11 – …says the UL guy on a UK site…. hilariously ironic.

    15 – Agreed. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is this: Rick Pitino historically has been Boeheim’s bitch. Michigan has Trey Burke.



  18. theSkinny81
    10:11 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    16 – Oy, talk about karma. All the finger pointing and it comes back to bite them? That would be priceless…



  19. i dont think so
    10:16 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    hey #17 you do realize that pitino had beat syracuse 7 times in a row before losing to them this season and then beat them after that twice. those counting would add that up to louisville beating cuse 9 out of ten times. hardly boeheims bitch.



  20. Wildcatsteeler
    10:30 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Pretty safe to assume Syracuse is the only team that can stop the Dirty Birds. And Syracuse has played phenomenal in the tourney so I like their chances. The zone will force the Cards to shoot from outside.



  21. BlueFins
    11:06 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    Will not be paying them any attention. Will not be watching any of the dregs this weekend or Monday.



  22. Rae
    11:06 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    14. That would be crazy for me considering I picked them to win it all back in early February and cooled off on them once they seemingly peaked at a number 1 ranking.



  23. Krash Davis 27
    11:56 pm April 4, 2013 Permalink

    You know what they call twinkies in Mexico? Los submarinos. That’s were I’m going amigos, if the loserville tardinals cut down the nets



  24. theSkinny81
    12:15 am April 5, 2013 Permalink

    19 – On his record against Rick Pitino: “There are some coaches in the hall of fame that I’ve beat 80 percent of the time. And you’re going to look at a couple of coaches that beat me? I’ve coached against Rick Pitino when he was at Providence five times and once at Kentucky where we were 6-0 against them. One of his teams went to the Final Four, we beat them three times. So now we’re all the sudden going to put in the paper that I’ve lost six straight to Rick Pitino? Why don’t we put that I beat him six straight?”

    Jan 19, 2013 | Comments 6

    Rick Pitino may get more national plaudits, but Jim Boeheim’s record against Slick Rick is a perfect 3-0 over the last two seasons after Syracuse escapes the Yum! Center with a dramatic 70-68 win.

    Seems like every time I watch them play, Syracuse wins… but i rarely watch UL, so you may be right.



  25. jumpman78
    12:30 am April 5, 2013 Permalink

    24. Syracuse never beat UK while Pitino was here. Beat the Cuse during the 94-95 regular season and of course the national title game.



  26. theSkinny81
    12:43 am April 5, 2013 Permalink

    25 – That was an ESPN quote from Boeheim. I dunno myself – like I said, it seems like when I watch them play, Syracuse usually seems to win. lol

    As much as I don’t like Syracuse, I wouldn’t mind if they won the NC, because then they’d be as good historically as Louisville with 2 Nat’l Champs. So the next time a UL fan spouts off about being the greatest program on earth, we can say, “ah, ah, ah, no… you’re AS good as Syracuse.”



  27. Bobby Knight's Shrink
    8:20 am April 5, 2013 Permalink

    #23 – Better start packing !