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2013 National Championship Game: Top Five Players to Watch in Title Contest

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2013 National Championship Game: Five Players to Watch

rick pitino
Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

It is Monday, Apr. 8 and the time has come for one team to be crowned atop the college basketball world.

From the first practices in mid-October to the brutal conference match-ups in late January, the college basketball season can be long and filled with both ups and downs. For both Michigan and Louisville however, it's all come down to one game and the final 40 minutes of the season.

On Saturday night, Louisville erased a 12-point second half deficit to advance to the 2013 National Championship Game, moving past No. 9 Wichita State in the process. On the flip side of the bracket, Michigan made some timely shots, figuring out Syracuse's 2-3 zone for the most part to advance into Monday's title bout.

While there has been no doubt left from this year's bracket that things were certainly unpredictable, but when all is said and done here in 2013 -- we have two teams that were each ranked within the top five in the preseason, squaring off for the national championship.

Yet what are the keys to tonight's title bout? Who are the players that will shine the most on college basketball's largest stage?

The talent in this contest is through the roof, but let's take a look at the top five players who will be on the court and providing an impact on Monday night:

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Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan)

Hardaway Jr
Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Tim Hardaway Jr. has play making ability and he very well could be a first round NBA Draft choice after this season. Hardaway can score the basketball in a variety of ways, but if he can get a rhythm going from the outside then the Wolverines just got that much more dangerous.

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Peyton Siva (Louisville)

Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Peyton Siva isn't exactly stealing the show with his play in this year's tournament, but the senior guard will be playing in his final game -- win or lose -- on Monday night. Siva is experienced, talented and has the ability to make plays when needed the most. Michigan must keep an eye on Siva.

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Mitch McGary (Michigan)

Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Mitch McGary was a role players a few months ago. He was a freshman, settling into his role, while college basketball fans and opponents were unaware of what he would eventually bring to the table for the Wolverines. McGary has been one of the top players in this tournament and the Cardinals better find a way to match his toughness and intensity.

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Russ Smith (Louisville)

Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Russ Smith is averaging 25.0 points per game in this year's NCAA Tournament. Smith is shift and can score in bunches. Transition points will once again be key for the Cardinals on Monday night and Smith is usually the one leading that charge. Can Michigan find a way to slow down Smith on Monday night?

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Trey Burke (Michigan)

Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Trey Burke is undoubtedly the top player and the biggest difference maker in Monday night's national championship contest. Burke won the AP Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Award just last week, but he's looking to add one more accolade to the trophy case -- a national title.