Michigan spoiled what would have been one heck of a going-away party for the Big East on Saturday night, beating Syracuse 61-56 to earn a spot in Monday night’s championship game against top-seeded Louisville.
Now the Cardinals have less than 48 hours to get ready for a team they haven’t played since 1978.
We don’t have to prepare too much if we play Syracuse,” Rick Pitino, trying to become the first coach to win national titles at two different schools, said after Louisville rallied for a 72-68 victory over ninth-seeded Wichita State.
“We’ve got a lot of preparation if we play Michigan.”
According to the USA Today, it has been 17 years since Pitino’s Kentucky juggernaut rolled through the NCAA tournament, beating No. 4 seed Syracuse in the championship game.
And though he’s now taken Louisville to the Final Four three times in 12 seasons, this would be the crowning achievement of his career.
And especially to do it in the shadow of John Calipari’s Kentucky program, which breezed to the title last season and looked ready to overwhelm college basketball for the foreseeable future
“It means a lot,” Louisville forward Chane Behanan said. “We haven’t been to the national championship since I don’t know when, probably before I was born. I’m very glad to be a part of this tradition.”
Louisville had come back to win five games already this year after trailing by nine points or more, including the title game at the Big East tournament, and the Cardinals knew they had another run in them, reports Huff Post.
“I never think we’re going to lose,” Pitino said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to win. We have lost. But that’s the attitude: Pressing teams have to stay in there. We were fouling too much. Then we started making some steals, picking up the heat. Then, of course, the guys were brilliant.”
Coming into the March Madness 2013 tourney, Louisville was the overwhelming favorite to win the title and they are now one game from doing so, but they will have to get by the red-hot Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan’s stud freshman Mitch McGary was once again a force in tournament play as he helped lead the Wolverines past Syracuse.
McGary had 10 points and 12 rebounds and looked anything like a newbie to the college game.
Right now, Michigan seems like the deeper team, getting big contributions from six to eight players, but the Cardinals have two of the best players in the game on the court with Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, Examiner writes.
Now Michigan will face a different kind of pressure against Louisville — the Cardinals’ stingy press.
Though the Wolverines played for the title in 1992 and 1993 – later vacated because of NCAA violations associated with booster Ed Martin – only a 1989 national championship banner hangs in Crisler Arena.
“Louisville is going to be a difficult game,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We’ve played against Rick’s teams and Kentucky one time, when I was at Canisius, and at West Virginia a few times. He’s a great coach with great schemes and it’s going to be very difficult.”