Big League Clu previews the Final Four matchup between Louisville and Wichita State.
With an exhilarating weekend of college basketball getting ready to be underway, the Final Four is set. I am here to give you the breakdown of the matchups that will be taking place at the Georgia dome in Atlanta this weekend. So pack your bags everyone, because we’re doing the dirty bird all the way to ATL. Let’s get right to this year’s Final Four teams, starting with Louisville and Wichita State! They play Saturday at 6:05 PM.
Wichita State Shockers (West Region Champions)
Last Final Four appearance: 1965
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
This is a match up that I know for a fact nobody anticipated. I mean really… How many people had Wichita State going to the final four? Maybe the students at Wichita State? I am sure even the most die hard Shocker fans of them had the team going to the sweet 16… Certainly not all the way to Atlanta. The Shockers ruined brackets and, of course, “Shocked” the expert analysts from ESPN and CBS (see what I did there?). One thing that I will say about the Shockers, from what I have gathered, is that they’re no sleeper. The Shockers, who pretty much decided to crash the Final Four are led by their experienced head coach Gregg Marshall, who helped coach his team to huge upsets over both #1 Gonzaga, #2 Ohio State to get to here. You also can’t fail to mention the fact that they did this while playing one of the smallest lineups possible! I think at one point during their game with the Buckeyes in the Elite 8, the tallest man on the floor was 6’8”!! Against Ohio State!? They must be crazed at Wichita State, see what I did there, again!
How Wichita State Can Beat Louisville
Well for starters, they will have to get past that pesky pressure defense that you’ve seen time and time again with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. The Cards have dominated their opponents all throughout the NCAA tournament with that D, and will most certainly use it against the fast scoring Shockers. Becaus of that tough D, The Shockers also NEED to limit their mistakes on offense, take good shots and be on point from beyond 3 point range. Also, they have to score efficiently and quickly, like they did against the Buckeyes, especially if the Shockers want to become the first school since Indiana State (Larry Bird anyone?) to advance to the championship game out of a mid-major conference. More importantly, they need to do these things if they want to become the first #9 seed to ever win the NCAA basketball championship.
The Whos Who for the Shockers?
The Shockers boast some big time scoring threats. Junior Forward Cleanthony Early leads the team with 13.7 ppg and rings down 5.3 rpg. Their other “big man” is senior Carl Hall (12.5ppg, 6.9 rpg). These two are key in sustaining the Shockers scoring attack. Of course, you can not go soley on these two players. The entire team has been hot throughout the entire tournament. Keep your eye on the Shockers, as they look to play spoiler against Louisville.
Louisville Cardinals (Midwest Region Champions)
Last Final Four appearance: 2012
Conference: Big East Conference
Well no surprise here that the overall #1 seed, Big East champions and Mid-West regional champs are in the Final Four. They’re looking to add a national championship to their very impressive list of accomplishments for this season. Louisville is also heading back to the final four for the second consecutive year. Hopefully their luck will be much better this go around.
The Cards have not been challenged AT ALL this tournament. Well… except maybe against the #2 seeded Duke Blue Devils during in the Elite 8, but only in the first half, as the Cards blew Duke out if the water in the second half. The real adversity they faced in that game was the unfortunate (and highly graphic) injury to Sophomore Kevin Ware, who broke his leg contesting a shot against Duke’s Tyler Thornton. When Ware came down on his right leg (in front of his teammates and coach) it just crumbled and the entire arena went numb. Honestly, it was the most gruesome sports injury that I have ever seen, and I hope that nobody ever has to go through something like that ever. But lets not focus on the bad, because if it was not for Ware’s constant reassurance throughout the whole ordeal, telling his teammates that “he was fine”, and to “just win the game,” I really dont think Louisville would have been emotionally ready to come back and win that game. The Atlanta native has become the sole inspiration for Louisville in this tournament. When you add that inspiration to their level of talent, that makes them a very very dangerous team.
The Annoying Pressure Defense
As I previously stated, the Cardinals have that pressure man-to-man defense that they like to play. We’ve seen it many times this year, most notibly against Syracuse in the Big East tournament finals (the Orange blew a 16 point lead, and lost the game by 17 because of that very same defense). They also used it on Oregon in the Sweet 16 and, of course, stifled Duke with it this past Sunday. The Cardinals made it hard for Seth Curry to make any outside shots and for Mason Plumelee get to the basket or get any offensive rebounds. If Louisville can control the paint and get rebounds, which in all fairness doesnt seem all too far fetched against a much smaller Wichita State team, They could be playing for their first national championship since 1986.
A Sea of Red
Obviously, we all know that the Cardinals are impressive on the defensive side of the ball, but they can also score at will too. Guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith take charge of this potent Louisville offense. Siva, the main dish man, leads the team with 5.8 assists per game, while Smith is the scorer (leading the team with 18.9 ppg) and has just been absolutely disgusting in this tournament. Nobody can stop him! He has scored 104 points in the 4 games played so far. Center Gorgui Deng has also contributed to the Cardinals, as their primary big man he averages about 9.5 rebounds per game and has about 30 rebounds in the tourney.
No matter what though, all of the Cardinals will be playing inspired basketball, as they look to win this tournament and a national championship for their fallen teammate Kevin Ware. The only question is, have the Shockers found one more glass slipper to put on for this truly David vs. Goliath matchup on the basketball court?
That is it for this segment. Tomorrow, I will be breaking down the second game of the Final Four between the #4 Michigan Wolverines and the Syracuse Orange. Stay tuned!!!
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