The Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Woverines enter this evening’s 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game with plenty of hype and abundant storylines. Obviously, the Kevin Ware story has caught the attention of the nation and should continue to serve as a great source of inspiration for Rick Pitino’s squad as they take on a Michigan team whose hard-nosed, but creative style has won fans across the country.
There are great individual players on both sides which will have the eyes of NBA scouts this evening and create some great individual matchups. Michigan guard Trey Burke has already taken home a few National Player of the Year awards and will be looked upon to elevate his game to another level against another of the more dynamic, but perhaps less-lauded guards in the country in Louisville’s pure scorer, Russ Smith.
Burke and Smith are book-ended by two of the more interesting big guys in the country– one white-collar and flowing while the other has the type of game which is drawing some comparison to guys like Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen and Kevin Love.
Louisville center Gorgui Dieng has blossomed from a serious project to one of the more skilled and imposing centers in all of college basketball in just two years time. Deng’s game is giving everyone fits due to his extremely long wingspan and ability to time blocked shots on the defensive end which lead to fast break opportunities for his teammates rather than just serving as an intimidation factor. How well Dieng does at controlling the paint in the Championship Game will play a huge part in how Louisville fares against Michigan’s blue-collar star Mitch McGary.
McGary has exploded onto the national basketball scene with his impressive mix of brut strength in the paint and nice mid-range touch which has made him difficult to handle. Unfairly, McGary is earning comparison to Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love and is having his name batted around as a potential NBA Draft lottery pick this summer — both notions which are a little far-fetched, but speak to just how much respect the 18-year old Porter, Indiana native has earned in a very short period of time.
Burke, Smith, Deng and McGary may earn the most attention of any of the guys taking the floor this evening in Atlanta, but as we all know, championships are often won when a role player steps up, rises to the occasion and has the game of their life. It’s impossible to guess who this guy could be on either side, but it’s part of the fun, part of what makes the National Championship Game one of the best stages in all of sports.
The 2013 version should be a classic.