Louisville and Michigan: That’s who college basketball beat writer MARCUS JACKSON likes in Saturday’s semifinals
What do we know about the Shockers? Their coach (Gregg Marshall) wears yellow glasses, gives passionate pregame speeches in which finishes by telling his guys to “play angry” and hates being called a Cinderella Story. “Cinderella found one glass slipper, we’ve won four games; I don’t think she found four,” Marshall said. Well, his players might look like they’re wearing slippers when asked to guard Louisville’s fantastic guard duo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. The speedsters are averaging 35 points and seven rebounds in four NCAA tournament games and as they go, so do the Cardinals. Remember, the Cardinals are familiar with this stage, seven of Rick Pitino’s top eight players playing in last year’s Final Four in New Orleans. Wichita State has been a nice story as the first Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since some guy named Larry led Indiana State to the title game in 1979. But Louisville has been outstanding in the tournament, winning by an average of 22 points and crushing Duke despite witnessing the gruesome injury to Kevin Ware.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Syracuse in this NCAA tournament is that suffocating 2-3 zone the Orange has played. Opponents are averaging 46 points per game against Jim Boeheim’s lankies in the tournament, including an Indiana squad that knocked Michigan off twice this season. But when the Wolverines are scoring in transition and knocking down perimeter shots like they did in wins against the Illini — and in the win against Florida on Sunday — they’re tough to defend. Surly as he can be at times, Boeheim made friends in Illiniland when he took a shot at Tom Crean by saying his zone can be beat, but Indiana never figured it out. Well, he’s got a guy on the other sideline (John Beilein) who’s considered an offensive wizard with the horses — and six days of prep — to beat that zone. Beilein didn’t have the National Player of the Year (Trey Burke) at point guard in those nine previous meetings with Boeheim (all losses). The Wolverines are explosive and Beilein crafts a game plan that gets him his first win against Boeheim and more importantly, his first shot at a national title.