National championship game: Louisville vs. Michigan

April 8, 2013

Louisville and Michigan face off in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game.

Follow along for updates and analysis.

So many shining moments…


(Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Luther Vandross does the honors on the 2013 edition of “One Shining Moment” as we wrap up the live blog.

Thanks for joining us.

Beilein admits a coaching error


John Beilein owned up to his coaching error. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)

Michigan Coach John Beilein admitted that the Wolverines were dallying late in the game because he made a simple mistake.

After Michigan’s turnover with 52 seconds left, 15 seconds ticked off the game clock before the Wolverines fouled. And when they did foul, they weren’t in the bonus and needed to foul again. When Louisville was done taking its free throws, there were only 29 seconds left.

How could this happen in such a huge moment? The answer is simple — and painful.

 

Trey Burke on the NBA draft…


Trey Burke walks off as Louisville celebrates. (Jeff Haynes / Reuters)

Trey Burke, on the big question moments after Michigan lost to Louisville in the NCAA championship game:

 

Kevin Ware cuts down the net. Awwww.


Kevin Ware got the last cut. (Tami Chappell / Reuters)

And…the moment everyone was waiting for came when Louisville’s Kevin Ware, who broke his leg so terribly just over a week ago, got to cut down the net after the Cardinals’ victory over Michigan.

The basket was lowered and Ware, on crutches, snipped the twine.

Earlier, he talked about his teammates, the guys he called his brothers during a cavalcade of interviews last week.

“It’s not about me. I’ve never been that type of guy,” he said when asked if his teammates had been inspired by him. “These guys came out here and played a great Michigan team. These are my brothers. They got the job done and I’m so proud of them, so proud of them.”

Ware was asked how close the Cardinals are.

“You would think we call came out of the same womb. We’re brothers.”

 

Rick Pitino is getting a tattoo.


Tat’s all, folks. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

In his postgame interview on CBS, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said he had a special celebration planned.

“About 12, 13 games ago, all these guys — if they say hello, they get a tattoo — said, ‘If you win the national championship coach, are you getting a tattoo?’” Pitino said. “And I said, ‘Hell, yes, I’m gettin’ a tattoo.’”

Why not? He’s the first coach to win a national title with two different teams. He’s headed to the Basketball Hall of Fame. His son, Richard, has been named coach at Minnesota. Oh, and his horse, Goldencents, is headed to the Kentucky Derby.

So, yeah, it’s off to the parlor!

Louisville beats Michigan for NCAA title


(Associated Press)

Louisville is your 2013 NCAA champion after defeating Michigan, 82-76, in an enthralling NCAA title game. Read all about it, courtesy of The Post’s Barry Svrluga.

Rick Pitino ducks

Louisville wrapped up its 82-76 victory over Michigan and as Coach Rick Pitino made his way toward the Wolverines’ bench, fireworks in the Georgia Dome went off.

Pitino jumped and ducked his head, but it was a little unnerving.


 

 

 

 

Trey Burke’s ‘foul’ on Peyton Siva

Peyton Siva has shown some impressive hubris tonight, skying up for several attempted posterizations and even slamming home a backdoor alleyoop.

But Trey Burke got the best of his backcourt counterpart on this fast break. Well, until it was called a foul.


Louisville is up 73-65 with 3:52 left. Gorgui Dieng hit a turnaround hook shot after Siva sank both free throws, so this call may very well represent a major turning point.

Suffice to say, Twitter isn’t happy.

(h/t @jose3030)

Siva’s dad is pumped; Hardaway dunks


Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr. offers up a dunk that was somewhat, and I do mean somewhat, reminiscent of his pops:


 

H/T SB Nation, CJ Zero

Mitch McGary picks up fourth foul

Mitch McGary bit on the classic Luke Hancock pump fake-and-jump-into-you move, picking up his fourth foul in the process. With Michigan already hurting inside against the physical Cardinals, this could have major implications down the stretch.

Louisville opened up a five-point lead, its largest of the game, and Peyton Siva has been dominant this half on both ends in the open floor. But Trey Burke sent Michigan into the under-eight media timeout (down 63-60) with an impossibly acrobatic and-one floater, and can cut the lead down to two with the ensuing free throw.

Regardless, Siva’s dad is jacked up.


The Georgia Dome just announced an official attendance of 74,326, an all-time championship game record.

Phil and Kurt and Jeanie

What’s happening in the Twitterfest involving Phil Jackson, Kurt Rambis and Jeanie Buss, you ask…because the Louisville-Michigan game is so darned boring?

A wedge salad would taste good right about now. Never mind that these guys are sitting six feet from one another…

Spike Albrecht is human

Spike Albrecht front-rimmed a three-pointer, his first miss from beyond the arc this entire tournament. Turns out, he’s human after all.

Peyton Siva took that long rebound coast-to-coast on a one-man fast break, and has done a solid job shutting down Albrecht this half.

Chane Behanan working hard inside

Louisville regained the lead by the under-12, 54-52, thanks in large part to forward Chane Behanan, who has cleaned up on the offensive glass and now has 13 points.

Trey Burke has stayed out of foul trouble this half and is enjoying a solid 14-point, 5-of-6 outing from the field. Spike Albrecht is scoreless since intermission, but Burke’s been the guy keeping the Wolverines afloat.

Setting up for a fantastic finish


(Associated Press)

It’s the under-16 in the second half, with just 15:57 left until our 2013 national title is crowned, and neither side is showing any sign of letting up.

Louisville and Michigan are shooting a combined 61.9 percent from beyond the three-point arc, but Luke Hancock picked up his third foul early into the half after hacking Tim Hardaway Jr. on a drive. Russ Smith, who started the second half on the bench, replaced him.

Coach Rick Pitino has been fuming over fouls, but that’s not nearly as big a concern as Smith turning into the out-of-control “Russidiculous” headache. Also, Spike Albrecht and Hancock just checked back in. Let the fireworks fly.

The media timeout also featured the recognition of the 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees, including Gary Payton, Jerry Tarkanian, Dawn Staley and Pitino himself.

Spike Albrecht has a Wikipedia page now

Well, this was bound to happen at some point.

Read about Luke Hancock

When I wrote this story to advance the Final Four, Luke Hancock was Louisville’s biggest three-point threat and the team’s emotional leader. He also happened to transfer from George Mason two season ago, so that was the real peg for local readers.

Boy, that was super lucky. Hancock has been the Cardinals’ leading scorer here in Atlanta, posting 20 points against Wichita State and now 16 at halftime against Michigan.

Spike Albrecht, in context

Michigan’s Spike Albrecht has 17 points. He has made made 6 of 7 shots and hasn’t missed a three-pointer this entire NCAA tournament. Let’s put this into context:

>> Albrecht had 19 points through four NCAA tournament games entering tonight.

>> Albrecht had 24 points the entirety of Big East play

>> His season high (and career high) was seven points, against Ohio State and Florida.

>> His season-high minutes played entering this game was 15. He played 16 in the first half. And remember, he scored 17 points.

>> He’s probably going to surpass 20,000 followers by the final buzzer.

So, yeah. This is ridiculous.

An insanely amazing half of basketball

So that was quite a first half, no? And that’s with Trey Burke sidelined by foul trouble, Russ Smith shooting 1 for 9 from the field and Mitch McGary doing little except making two mid-range jumpers.

Michigan leads 38-37 at halftime, but Louisville managed to erase a double-digit deficit, largely thanks to four three-pointers from Luke Hancock, who decided to put an end to all that Spike Albrecht insanity (he does have a game-high 17 points). Even with the stars taking a back seat, this has been arguably the best half of basketball this entire NCAA tournament.

Louisville actually took the lead for a split second, mainly because Montrezl Harrell decided to defy all phony-baloney notions of “gravity” and did this:


Hancock and Albrecht are a combined 10 for 11 from the field and have 44 percent of the entire game’s points. Yet somehow both missed a free throw. Shame, shame.

Luke Hancock had enough of Spike Albrecht

Luke Hancock really didn’t enjoy all that talk about Spike Albrecht.

He’s hit three straight three-pointers for Louisville, including an impossibly deep one that forced a Michigan timeout and cut the Wolverines lead to 36-32 with 1:37 left in the half.

UPDATE: Hancock made a fourth.

 

You and me both, Phil.

The legend of Spike Albrecht grows


Spike … being Spike … in the first half. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Can nothing stop this Spike Albrecht tonight? The freshman has 17 of Michigan’s 33 points at the under-4 (his previous career high: seven points twice, most recently in the Wolverines’ Elite Eight win over Florida). The Wolverines have opened up a 33-21 lead, largely thanks to Albrecht. He’s hitting layups, draining deep three-pointers and generally making the nation’s best defense look foolish.

Who needs Trey Burke when you have Spike Albrecht? Ever since Burke picked up his second foul, Michigan has expanded its lead by nine points.

And so the legend grows.

 

 

Burke sidelined, but Michigan keeps pace

Trouble appeared to strike for Michigan as point guard Trey Burke went to the bench with 11:09 left after picking up his second personal foul, leaping into a Luke Hancock pump-fake in the right corner. Louisville forced two turnovers in the half-court with the Wolverines’ main ballhandler on the bench.

Of course, Spike Albrecht picked up the slack. It’s the under-8, Michigan holds a 26-19 lead and Albrecht has a game-high 12 points. One of five Wolverines freshmen on the court at the same time, Albrecht hit an acrobatic floater in the lane — he can do that, too?! — before Nik Stauskas swished a three-pointer from the right corner, all while being knocked down in the process. Mitch McGary then found Albrecht on a nifty backdoor cut, drawing the foul and sinking one of two.

Michigan is operating on all cylinders right now, even with its MVP sidelined.

Spike Albrecht doesn’t miss — ever

Forget Trey Burke. It’s Spike Albrecht’s turn.

With Michigan’s national player of the year on the bench, getting a much-needed rest after his early spurt, the freshman guard with the choir boy looks suddenly has a game-high nine points at the under-12 as the Wolverines have built a 20-15 lead.

Albrecht checked in after the under-16 with 15:34 left, nearly had a long baseball pass intercepted, then canned a three-pointer from the right corner. The unheralded bench player, whose lone scholarship offer before Michigan was from Appalachian State, also swished a deep shot from the top of the key and another deep ball along the left wing in transition.

By the way, Albrecht is now 8 for 8 during the NCAA tournament on three-pointers. So seriously, he doesn’t miss.

He would need to make his next four three-pointers to set the NCAA record for best three-point shooting percentage in one tournament. To qualify, a player must average two three-pointers made per tournament game. Albrecht is only at 1.3 per game.

However, Albrecht is just one three-pointer away from tying the NCAA tournament record for most made three-pointers without a miss. Sam Cassell went 9 for 9 for Florida State in 1993.

Trey Burke is on fire

Trey Burke made one field goal in the national semifinals against Syracuse. He scored seven points.

So much for a cold streak.

At the under-16, Burke has all seven of Michigan’s points. He knifed through the lane for a running bank shot, stuck a deep three-pointer and hit a tough, hesitation floater through the teeth of Louisville’s defense.

Wayne Blackshear is pacing the Cardinals so far with five points, though center Gorgui Dieng got away with a pretty egregious non-goaltending call, swatting a shot that clearly bounced off the backboard first.

Chris Webber completes Fab Five reunion


The Fab Five — Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson (left to right) — in 1991. (AP)

Chris Webber has put the past — which includes calling a timeout Michigan did not have in the 1993 title game as well as his involvement in the Ed Martin scandal — arrived in the Georgia Dome shortly before tipoff.


His fellow Wolverine teammates — Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard (still playing for the Miami Heat) and Ray Jackson — are there and Rose had pleaded with him to come to the game in an interview with ESPN’s Bill Simmons. “It’s almost like a flagrant omission if he decides not to come,” Rose said.

 

The Georgia Dome is packed

A shot of the Georgia Dome, taken during pregame introductions, mere minutes before tip-off. The late-arriving Michigan faithful have evened things out. Hard to tell which fan base has the edge. Both bands are blasting the hits, so it’s pretty darn loud in here.


 

Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis are back

The former Lakers and Bulls coach — you might have heard that he has 11 championship rings — is back on the Tweeter, sharing his observations about tonight’s game along with Kurt Rambis.

(Jackson graciously — perhaps a little too graciously — thanked those who followed along Saturday…)

Love is in the air. Love for Mitch McGary.


Mitch McGary loves unicycles and chick flicks. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Michigan’s chick-flick-loving, unicycling freshman is suddenly very popular.

 

Russ Smith: “Russdiculous” fits perfectly


The moniker has stuck. (Curtis Compton / AP)

Louisville Coach Rick Pitino may have great affection for Russ Smith, but that doesn’t mean that the guard doesn’t drive him nuts. That’s how Smith got the nickname “Russdiculous” from Pitino, who even bestowed the name on one of his players. (But not the one that will run in the Kentucky Derby. That’s Goldencents.)

Just what is so exasperating and so exhilarating about Smith was on full display Saturday in the semifinal against Wichita State. From CBS’s Gregg Doyel:

It won’t show the way Russ Smith went from awful to awesome, the way he played and kept playing and never changed what he was doing. He kept attacking, even after losing the ball out of bounds or to a Wichita State player. He kept shooting, even after that 3-pointer in the first half that missed the rim by damn near a foot. And when the game was coming to a close and it was going to be won or lost by Louisville at the foul line, Russ Smith kept making sure the inbound pass came to him, because he wanted to be fouled. He wanted to shoot those free throws, even after missing his first four of the game, and 6 of his first 8.

Russ Smith wanted those things because he is Russdiculous. No conscience, no memory, no guilt.

No problem at the foul line, either. Three times Smith went to the line in the final 45 seconds, all three times with Louisville leading by two or three. All three times it was a one-possession game when he stepped to the line, and all three times it was a two-possession game — a four-point lead, all four times — when he was done.

That was never the problem with Jack Curran, the legendary coach for whom Smith played at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. (Curran died recently at the age of 82.) SI.com’s Luke Winn wrote last December:

“Coach Curran knew me in a way that nobody else did,” Smith said. “He knew I was capable of taking some stupid shots, but he also knew all the cards I was holding, and he had faith in me. He said I played with great heart and passion.”

Curran explained why Smith never maddened him the way he does Pitino:

“Russ never maddened me because he scored a lot of points. We don’t get mad at those guys. As long as they put it in, they can shoot as much as they want. … It’s in his DNA: When he gets the ball, he thinks he’s supposed to score. He really can’t help himself with that.”

“I watched Russ the other night at Louisville [a game against Miami of Ohio], and he looked much more disciplined than he usually does. So I think it’s working with Pitino. Pitino is a good coach for him, because he’ll scream and yell at him, and it won’t bother Russ. He’s good at making believe that he’s listening.”

Side note: Smith shared his breakfast secret with Winn. (Tip: sugar on grits “wakes the food up.”)

Louisville-Michigan starting lineups

Here are tonight’s NCAA championship game starting lineups:

MICHIGAN (31-7) 

F- Fr. Glenn Robinson III (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

F- Fr. Mitch McGary (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

G- So. Trey Burke (18.5 ppg, 6.8 apg)

G- Jr. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

G- Fr. Nik Stauskas (11.3 ppg, 43.9 3PT%)

Coach: John Beilein (Sixth season, 122-84)

LOUISVILLE (34-5)

F- So. Wayne Blackshear (7.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

F- So. Chane Behanan (9.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

C- Jr. Gorgui Dieng (9.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg)

G- Sr. Peyton Siva (9.8 ppg, 5.7 apg)

G- Jr. Russ Smith (19.0 ppg, 2.9 apg)

Coach: Rick Pitino (12th season, 309-111)

Kevin Ware present and accounted for


Kevin Ware had a ringside seat next to the raised court Saturday. (David J. Phillip / AP)

Kevin Ware is in the house and wearing his No. 5 Louisville jersey, too.

He’ll likely watch the championship game, as he did the semifinal Saturday, from a chair at the end of the Cardinals’ bench.

 

Shortly after breaking his leg March 31, he vowed that he’d help cut down the net if Louisville won and, if that comes to pass, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

Love “One Shining Moment” or hate it?

Not everybody is a fan of “One Shining Moment,” the song that, since 1987, CBS has played with highlight clips immediately after the NCAA championship game is over. But it’s a network tradition unlike any other.

Here’s how it looked the first time it was played, after Indiana beat Syracuse 74-73:

It was written by David Barrett on a napkin in an East Lansing, Mich., bar. Buzzfeed’s Erik Malinowski has the song’s backstory:

And while “One Shining Moment” was meant to be a cathartic afterthought to the trials of March Madness, a palate cleanser to wrap up a near-month of competition, it’s also maintained its familiar mid-’80s schmaltz, the same sense of comfort that personifies so many sports-movies clichés.

But in an age of pop culture where everything old is new again, “One Shining Moment” serves as a reminder that for every skin-crawling collegiate scandal that pops up, there’s one constant immune to tarnish. Every year, the script plays out the same — great teams lose, small schools stand up, and only one is left at the end — and then it’s time to cue up “One Shining Moment.” Weeks of behind-the-scenes work by CBS Sports engineers go into three minutes and five seconds of montage, but no challenge is too great when you’re dealing with what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has deemed “the national anthem of college basketball.”

Rick Pitino has all the answers

The persistent whistles and accompanying fouls. The poor shooting and low scoring. Zubaz jerseys. Yes, college basketball seems to have an image problem this season.

Fear not, fans. Louisville Coach Rick Pitino has a solution: Follow the NBA-brick road toward freedom of movement.

“I think [ESPN analyst] Jay Bilas has done a tirade on the way college is being played,” Pitino said Sunday. “I started thinking about it because I was on a committee many years ago with a bunch of coaches, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, general managers, about 18 of us in the room. David Stern called the meeting to change professional basketball. I think at the time there were only one or two teams breaking 100. Pro basketball was ugly, just like you’re saying now.

“We talked about the zone. We talked about eight seconds in the back court. Then we left the meeting and everybody wanted to do something about it.

“Go back a little bit, for all the New York guys. My team with the Knicks averaged 116.8 points in the game and we were third in the league in scoring. The NBA came full cycle, couldn’t break 100.

“What was happening is, all the things we tried to come up with weren’t the answer.”

But what is the answer, Rick?! Tell us! Please!

“What happened in the NBA now is they stopped all the arm bars, all the standing up of screens, all the coming across and chopping the guy. They stopped all that. Now there’s freedom of movement in the NBA and you see great offense.

“When you coach in the Big East, you should wear body guard. Peyton [Siva] wears body guard, shoulder pads, because you can’t cut, can’t move. The referees are caught in a quandary. They’re saying, ‘We’re going to ruin the game, we’re on TV.’ Jay is 100 percent right: If we want to get back, take a page out of the NBA, have freedom of movement.”

Fair enough. But on the surface, this conflicts directly with Louisville’s in-your-face defensive style, which forces the nation’s second-highest turnover rate, according to Kenpom.com.

“Yeah, to be honest with you, we don’t really foul too much. Russ [Smith] will once in a while, like, he’ll get in the guy’s jocks and use his hands. We don’t do those things to stop freedom of movement.

“Russ, I’ll be honest with you, I told him last night, ‘That’s a foul, son.’ He got after the guy, that’s a foul.

“I’m all for it. We got to get through this year, then something has to be done about it. I complained for three years about coaches having conversations with referees. That was my biggest thing to the commissioners, is how can, during the game, the referees talk to coaches. Can you imagine someone screaming in your ear as you’re trying to make a Wall Street trade? You can’t do that.

“I think the freedom of movement has to start next year from the exhibition games. Have to allow it to happen. One of the worst things about certain calls, happens to Gorgui all the time, goes up for an offensive rebound, over-the-back call, second foul, he’s got to sit. You do have to call what you see. But the arm bars, the stopping of the screening and the stopping of the cutting is what was cleaned up the NBA.”

How John Beilein recruited stars to Michigan

John Beilein has assembled quite the arsenal of stars at Michigan, from the sons of professionals (Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III) to the perennially dominant (Trey Burke) to the late risers (Mitch McGary) to the Canadian (Nik Stauskas).

None of those five, the team’s projected starters for Monday night’s NCAA title game, actually hail from Michigan. Hardaway is from Miami, Robinson and McGary from Indiana, Burke from Ohio and Stauskas from Ontario.

Accordingly, each boasts his own unique Beilein recruiting tale, shared during Sunday’s media availability. Before the players relayed their recruitment process and spoke on playing under Beilein, their coach quipped with a smirk, “Be very careful, we still have one more practice.”

Here’s what they said:

Trey Burke:

I knew I was coming into a really good program, was going to play for a really good coach. My senior year, it came down to Cincinnati and Michigan. Michigan came onto the scene for me late in my recruiting process.

You know, I really didn’t know what to expect when they first started calling me. When I got the chance to meet Coach B, get to campus, meet the players, things like that, I definitely felt like this was the place for me to be.

Coach Beilein, he’s always been a players’ coach. He’s the type of coach that allows you to play. He tells you, Play within the system, but don’t be mechanical, robotic, be a player. I definitely think that’s important for this team because we had those type of players that can make plays, but at the same time run an offense and definitely get good looks.

Tim Hardaway Jr.:

Yeah, I knew I was coming to a great place when Coach Beilein, the first question he asked was, How are you academically? How you doing in school? When I was getting recruited, no other coach talked to me about that. It was great just to see how important academics was to that coach.

He knew if you wasn’t going to do well in school, you wasn’t going to see any playing time on court. So I knew right then and there I had his trust going to the school, just getting a great education here.

Mitch McGary:

During the recruiting process, I had other big-time schools that offered. I just felt Coach Beilein and his staff, I respected them a lot. They stayed true to me. They were real classy with it. They didn’t give me the normal car salesman pitch like every other coach did. They told me what I wanted to hear, told me I have to earn everything when I get there.

Just going off this year how Coach Beilein lets us play throughout his system, it’s just a blessing for us players. We have guys, like Trey said, who can score at any moment. Just for him to let us play within his offense, be players, it’s just an honor.

Glenn Robinson III:

I heard a lot about Coach B coming into Michigan, our recruiting trips, how good of a coach he was. Something that really caught my eye and my attention about coming to Michigan was about how he was a great coach, he was so family oriented.

We all get along like family. He really values each and every one of us, wants to gain a relationship. He’s not just a coach to us. He believed in myself and the rest of these guys up here in stages of our life when we probably weren’t this good and we didn’t have all offers. That’s something I really respect about Coach B, and thank him for that.

Nik Stauskas:

During the recruiting process, the thing that stuck out to me was the interest that Coach B took into my personal life and my family. Most of the other coaches that recruited me, every time I talked to them, it was just about basketball, what things were going to be like when I got there.

Coach Beilein took the time to talk to me about anything that was going on in my life. I appreciated that. The other thing he stressed was skill development. He said he was looking forward to improving my game, getting me better. That’s something that meant a lot to me because I’m always looking to get better on the court.

History on the line for Michigan, Louisville

Greetings from the Georgia Dome, where the NCAA tournament title game between Louisville and Michigan tips off at 9:23 p.m. Atlanta has buzzed all weekend, another champion will soon be crowned and it’s time to toss that excitement onto the live blog. Cindy Boren and I will be here all night with updates. Stick around.

A few quick notes:

Cardinals Coach Rick Pitino is going for history tonight. A win would make him the first coach to win national titles at two schools. Not that he’s thinking about etching his name into college hoops lore.

“Well, I’m going to be honest with you,” Pitino said Sunday afternoon. “I haven’t thought about it for one second until you mentioned it. It’s really not that significant to me. We’ve built a brand on Louisville first. Everything we do is about the team, about the family. I’d be a total hypocrite if I said it’s really important. It really is not important.”

John Beilein, whose Wolverines haven’t lost in 18 games against nonconference opponents this season, is looking to lead Michigan to its first championship since 1989. It’s been 20 years since the Fab Five, a topic discussed ad nauseam throughout the week, but the Wolverines want to carve their own legacy. Star freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Mitch Mcgary and Nik Stauskas have been bright spots throughout the season, while Trey Burke swept every major national player of the year award.

Beilein has taken the road less traveled to reach Atlanta, pit-stopping at LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia before finally reaching Ann Arbor. As a Division II coach, he attended the 1989 Final Four but left early before the championship game.

“I think it means a lot to Michigan, and not only Michigan but to the alumni,” Burke said Sunday. “This program hasn’t been this far in two decades, so just to be back in this situation definitely means the world to the alumni and it means to the world to us. That’s been our number one goal since Day One. We came into practice with that.

“Last year when I came back, I announced to the media that I wanted to come back and compete for a national championship because I understood the type of talent that we had coming in. A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy, but now that we’re here it just goes to show the type of team that we have and the type of team that we saw we had at the beginning of the year.”

Buckle your seat belts, friends. Two historic programs, led by two coaches counted among the game’s best, gun for another shining moment in just more than two hours.

The view from the Georgia Dome


Basketball, y’all. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

 

The Georgia Dome’s maple basketball floor on which Louisville and Michigan will play comes from Connor Sports Flooring. It’s going to look great on TV, but the Dome is a better venue for its regular tenants, the Atlanta Falcons.

From the seats in the arena, which seats 71,228, players on the floor look like ants. And playing in a dome does nothing for their games…not that the NCAA is going to change that anytime soon, Charles P. Pierce writes on Grantland.com.

The NCAA tournament’s final is going to be contested in one dome or another forever. This means the organization’s signature event, and the one that pays almost all the bills, is going to be contested in buildings that are too big for basketball. Next year will be an exception. The 2014 Final Four will take place in Jerry Jones’s monumental tribute to overcompensation out on the plains outside Dallas, which means that it will be contested in a building that really is too big for football.

Saturday’s semifinals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta were penny dreadfuls, the two of them. They were compelling. They were close and hard-fought. They had some surprise stars; Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early — and the world has far too few Cleanthonys for my taste — made some serious coin for himself against Louisville. They both turned, at least in part, on a single ghastly officiating call. (The block/charge on Syracuse’s Brandon Triche was pretty bad, but at least it was a fairly standard bad call. The held-ball call in the Wichita State–Louisville game was a preposterously quick whistle.) But the fact remains that the simple task of putting the ball in the basket is far too difficult while you’re trying to play the game in Castle Dracula.

Russ Smith of Louisville, an 81 percent free throw shooter, missed his first four attempts. His teammate, Peyton Siva, missed all five 3-point shots and, at one point, missed a point-blank layup. As for Monday’s other finalist, Michigan’s top three scorers shot 17 percent from the field Saturday. The four teams playing Saturday combined to shoot 26-for-83 on their 3-point attempts. None of them shot better than 45 percent, and Louisville only got that number because Luke Hancock somehow solved the riddle of the jumbled depth perception and shot 6-for-9. This wasn’t basketball. This was watching half-drunk teenagers trying to win stuffed pandas for their girlfriends on a carnival midway in East McJesus, Indiana.

“I couldn’t really see,” Siva said after the game. “It was too far away.”

It’s all too far away. The baskets look like they’re drifting in space. The seats are so distant that, when you shoot at them, the closest fans look like they’re sitting behind the walls of an aquarium — which sort of makes you, the player, like, the fish. Where do you go, seriously, when the size of the event makes the actual playing of the game impossible? There is no event so ludicrously overafflicted with corporate elephantiasis than the Super Bowl, but, when the last flyover has flown and we have finally finished Honoring America for the 33rd time, the game is still played within the confines of a regular football field. The end zone Joe Flacco saw in February looked to him to be located on pretty much the same dimensional plane as every other end zone he’d ever seen. The size of the event of the Final Four — and the corresponding unbridled greed that goes with it — forced the event to move into the domes, and playing the games in domes has completely destroyed the act most basic to the game itself. This is beyond absurd. And it also is beyond all recall. That horse is out of the barn, over the hill, down the lane, and standing at stud at Three Chimneys by now. The NCAA in its infinite avarice has made its signature event almost unrecognizable as actual basketball.

Just wait until next year, when it’s here:


The NCAA heads for Jerry Jones’s palace next year. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

Watch along with us

Louisville and Michigan will tip off in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game at 9:23 p.m. EDT tonight in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

No. 1 seed Louisville is seeking its third national title (1980, 1986) and its coach, Rick Pitino is looking to become the first coach to win championships with two teams (Kentucky, 1996). No. 4 seed Michigan is trying to win it’s second title (1989).

Join Alex Prewitt, who is courtside at the Georgia Dome, and Cindy Boren right here for live coverage and analysis throughout game. Alex and Cindy will begin their coverage around 7 p.m.

Once the game starts, you’ll also be able to stay on top of each play through the stats above. Selecting the stats tab on the left will get you live team and individual statistics, and you can also follow along with game action by selecting the play-by-play tab.

The pregame show on CBS starts at 9 and the game also will be streamed live online at March Madness on Demand.

Catch up on your NCAA tournament reading from the past few days:

A star-studded cast awaits in Atlanta

Best and Worst from the Final Four

Michigan holds off Syracuse | Louisville slips past Wichita State

Feinstein: Final Four celebration turns sour

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Cindy Boren · April 8, 2013